This study investigated social interactions between infants and mothers, comparing dyads with physically disabled infants and dyads with nondisabled infants. The groups were matched on mental and motor development, sex, socioeconomic status, birth order, and maternal education. Each infant–mother dyad was videotaped at home during a 10minute period of free play, and blind observers subsequently transcribed infants’ and mothers’ behaviors. In general, the groups were remarkably similar in their interaction patterns. However, a few differences emerged: Mothers of infants with physical disabilities were significantly more commanding than were comparison mothers. Nondisabled infants tended to engage in more eye contact than did infants with physical disabilities. And whereas mothers of nondisabled infants responded to interactive play with interactive play, mothers of infants with physical handicaps tended to respond with commands and verbalizations. These results suggest reciprocal influences between infants and mothers in both groups and highlight emerging maternal behavior patterns that may interfere with the development of communication and independence in handicapped young children.

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