Eye Contact and Social Behavior

We sure don’t know how much of anything in the brain really works.  Take for instance, canstockphoto7077082_smvision, and what it means to “Gaze into someone’s eyes”, or to “look him in the eye”. Research is showing that most people learn to socially “read” others, their moods, intentions, and more.   But it takes a lot of practice; practice that starts from day one with the looks given by parents.  A study on infant eye contact and social behavior by about 2 ½ years of age was reported in Biological Psychiatry.

Over 200 first time mothers were interviewed before the birth.  The 5 week old babies were observed for how well they looked at a human face.  When the infants were about 7 months old, researchers looked at how the mothers played with the babies, and how responsive moms were to the babies’ cues.  At 2 ½ years they evaluated the kids for how well they interacted with others.  They found that the kids who had poor eye contact as infants, didn’t do as well socially by age 2 years.  Boys in general got along less well than girls. The girls who didn’t do as well socially didn’t have a mother who especially smiled, made eye contact, talked and played with her.

Now the researchers say that many more tests need to be done to understand these results.  But perhaps the important thing to remember, is from day one, it is important to look at that baby, and make eye contact.  And continue making eye contact many, many times a day, with an added smile, a laugh, and the gentle touch, the talking, and singing. There may be genetic reasons a child may not make eye contact. Ask your doctor, if you notice your child won’t look you in the eye, or return your smile, by at least 2 months of age. Otherwise, give that kid many hugs, smiles, and lots of eye contact.