Togetherness, beyond the eyes: A systematic review on the interaction between visually impaired children and their parents

Serena Grumi, Giulia Cappagli, Giorgia Aprile, Eleonora Mascherpa, Monica Gori, Livio Provenzi, Sabrina Signorini

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: Parent-child interaction is essential to promote adaptive emotional, cognitive, and social development. The majority of previous research on parent-child interaction is largely dependent on face-to-face exchanges that require the interactive partners to visually recognize reciprocal communicative bids. Therefore, previous findings in the field can only partially apply to the early interactive patterns occurring between visually impaired infants and their parents. The present study was aimed to systematically review the available evidence on parent-child interaction in the context of developmental visual impairment.

METHODS: Fourteen papers were finally selected after literature search on PubMed and Scopus. Data synthesis was focused on three core topics: visually impaired children's contribution to the interaction, parental caregiving behaviors with visually impaired children, and the association between parents' behaviors and the developmental outcomes of children with visual impairment.

RESULTS: Visually impaired children may exhibit reduced reactivity to maternal stimuli and less-than-optimal levels of interactive initiations in social exchanges. Parents of children with visual impairment may use more descriptive communicative acts and greater directiveness compared to mothers of sighted counterparts. Specific caregiving behaviors (e.g., responsiveness and goal setting) of parents of children with visual impairment may significantly support language and socio-emotional development as well as sensorimotor integration.

DISCUSSION: Children with visual impairment may be less responsive and they may produce less clear communicative bids while interacting with their parents. Their parents may face specific challenges while engaging with them and they may become increasingly directive and intrusive. Nonetheless, even in the presence of visual impairment, the quality of parental caregiving behaviors appears to play a potential preventive role in the face of children's socio-emotional and cognitive outcomes. These results suggest that early interventions focused on parent-child interactions are especially needed in this population.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)101590
JournalInfant Behavior and Development
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - May 29 2021


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