Narrative as co-regulation : a review of embodied narrative in infant development

McGowan, Timothy and Delafield-Butt, Jonathan (2022) Narrative as co-regulation : a review of embodied narrative in infant development. Infant Behavior and Development, 68. 101747. ISSN 0163-6383 (

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We review evidence of non-verbal, embodied narratives in human infancy to better understand their form and function as generators of common experience, regulation, and learning. We examine their development prior to the onset of language, with a view to improve understanding of narrative as regular motifs or schemas of early experience in both solitary and social engagement. Embodied narratives are composed of regular patterns of interest, arousal, affect, and intention that yield a characteristic four-part structure of (i) introduction, (ii) development, (iii) climax, and (iv) resolution. Made with others these form co-created shared acts of meaning, and are parsed in time with discreet beginnings and endings that allow a regular pattern to frame and give predictive understanding for prospective regulation (especially important within social contexts) that safely returns to baseline again. This characteristic pattern, co-created between infant and adult from the beginning of life, allows the infant to contribute to, and learn, the patterns of its culture. We conclude with a view on commonalities and differences of co-created narrative in non-human primates, and discuss implications of disruption to narrative co-creation for developmental psychopathology.