Alumna Wendy Ochoa (Ph.D. '19) is lead author of an article in Academic Pediatrics assessing how caregivers’ mobile device use influenced the quality of their interactions with their children. The title of the article is "The Observed Quality of Caregiver-Child Interactions with and without a Mobile Screen Device." Co-authors are Associate Professor Stephanie Reich and Distinguished Professor George Farkas.
Ochoa is a postdoctoral research fellow at Tufts University Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development. Her research interests are broadly focused on studying how factors such as socioeconomic status, race/ethnicity, language, media, and the home environment influence parenting and child development among families with young children from ethnic minorities, particularly Latino parents. Dr. Reich served as her Ph.D. advisor.
Reich is a community psychologist studying contexts that support children’s development. Her research focuses on children’s direct and technologically mediated interactions with family, peers, and educational settings. She is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association (APA) and director of UCI's Development in Social Context Lab (DISC).
Farkas studies the achievement gap, educational inequality, early childhood, and afterschool programs and has made a major contribution to understanding the school achievement gap for low income and ethnic minority students. Recently, he was honored with the American Sociological Association Willard Wallen Award for lifetime achievement in the field of sociology of education. (Read more here.) At UCI, Farkas directs the Reading One-to-One program.
This study investigated how caregivers’ mobile device use influenced the quality of their interactions with their children. The associations between quality of interactions and the type of activity (e.g., typing/swiping, looking at screen), setting, caregiver-child proximity, and child behaviors were also examined.
Researchers anonymously and systematically observed and coded the behavior of 98 caregiver-child dyads in public settings (e.g., parks, food courts) during real-time, naturally occurring interactions using time sampling.
Caregivers who used a mobile device for the entire observation engaged in less joint attention and were less responsive than caregivers who used the device some of the time. When looking at patterns within caregivers who used the device intermittently, the probability that they would engage in joint attention, initiate interactions with their child, talk and display positive emotions was lower when they used a mobile device than when they did not. Child talking and positive affect were unrelated to device use. Activity type with the device, caregiver-child proximity and setting also related to interaction quality.
Caregiver device use was negatively associated with adult behaviors that are key components of high-quality caregiver-child interactions. Additionally, setting, activity type, and caregiver-child proximity are factors that should be considered because they relate to the quality of caregiver-child interactions in the context of mobile screen technologies.