Infants’ abilities to respond to cues for joint attention vary by family socioeconomic status

Emily B. Reilly, Isabella C. Stallworthy, Shanna B. Mliner, Michael F. Troy, Jed T. Elison, Megan R. Gunnar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


The influence of socioeconomic variability on language and cognitive development is present from toddlerhood to adolescence and calls for investigating its earliest manifestation. Response to joint attention (RJA) abilities constitute a foundational developmental milestone that are associated with future language, cognitive, and social skills. How aspects of the family home environment shape RJA skills is relatively unknown. We investigated associations between family socioeconomic status (SES) —both parent education and family percentage of the federal poverty level (FPL)— parent depressive and anxiety symptoms and infant RJA performance in a cross-sectional sample of 173 infants aged 8–18 months and their parents from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds. Results suggest that, correcting for age and receptive language, infants in families with greater economic resources respond to relatively less redundant, more sophisticated cues for joint attention. Although parent depressive and anxiety symptoms are negatively correlated with SES, parent depressive and anxiety symptoms were not associated with infant RJA. These findings provide evidence of SES-related differences in social cognitive development as early as infancy, calling on policymakers to address the inequities in the current socioeconomic landscape of the United States.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)204-222
Number of pages19
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 30 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Special thanks to Bao Moua, Carolyn Lasch, Eli Johnson, Kirsten Dalrymple, patients, families, providers and medical staff at Children’s Minnesota without whom this research would not have been possible, supported by The JPB Foundation through a grant to The JPB Research Network on Toxic Stress: A Project of the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University as well as a grant from the Bezos Family Foundation. The authors declare no conflicts of interest with regard to the funding source for this study.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 International Congress of Infant Studies


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