Abstract and Keywords
In this chapter, we address concerns regarding how deafness affects the very young child, how a deaf child is likely to affect hearing parents, and how the family’s decisions and actions can support the optimal development of this child. Qualitative differences exist in various aspects of the development of deaf and hearing children, and their varying experiences of the world influence their psychological development in ways that may not yet be fully understood. Throughout development, personal attributes of deaf children mandate different social supports than those required by hearing children. During the first years of life, individuality is reflected in the different experiences of deaf toddlers (e.g., cultural contexts, exposure to sign language, use of hearing aids or cochlear implants, interactions with depressed parents, etc.) and their different personal resources (e.g., dialogue skills, communication styles, attachment relationships, emotional regulatory skills, sense of self, etc.). Sameroff’s “Transactional Model” is applied to explain these reciprocal influences in the parent-–child interaction system. As the Papoušeks have asserted, certain factors may negatively affect the “harmonious interplay” normally expected between parents and infants: (1) missed opportunities for communication as a result of perinatal complications; (2) infant disability leading to diminished intuitive parenting; (3) mismatched style between infant and parent; and (4) prolonged need for preverbal communication. The first two are discussed from a family systems approach as stressors for hearing parents. The third factor is addressed in relation to temperament, “goodness-of-fit,”, and interactional reciprocity, while the fourth is expanded upon with emphasis on communication needs.
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