Baby Face

Psychology professor looks at how babies and parents react to each other

Baby Face

Baby Face

Psychology professor looks at how babies and parents react to each other

Naomi Ekas is looking for a few good babies. She also needs their moms and dads.

It’s part of her ongoing research into better understanding children’s emotional development and the important roles parents play.
Ekas, assistant professor of psychology, works in TCU’s Faces Lab. It’s a place where she and fellow researchers can observe how people react to the facial expressions of others.

For her latest research study, Ekas is looking to recruit 100 babies and their parents to look at how babies handle potentially stressful situations and how their parents react to their frustrations.

Parents are directed to look at their baby with a poker face, not responding to the baby’s various emotional cues. That tends to frustrate the baby, hence putting them into a stressful situation.

“The baby is looking at mom or dad saying, ‘Hey, I’m cute, pick me up,’ but they get no reaction from that,” Ekas says.

“The idea is to look at when the baby is frustrated. Are the parents frustrated too? Because they’re watching their child cry and they can’t really respond,” Ekas says.

“We like to see if they’re in sync with each other. When the baby’s upset, is the parent upset too?”

Ekas says her study is unique in that it involves both moms and dads adding that, “there really isn’t that much research on the effects dads’ emotions have on babies so it’s exciting to be able to examine that.”

Parents and their babies are asked to come in for observations three times – when the baby is 6 months old, 12 months and 13 months.  Babies are also given comprehensive assessments to see where they are with their learning development compared to others their age.

Ekas and her students have been trying to find participants in a variety of locales from preschools to pediatrician offices.

“We’re looking for families where both the mom and dad are living with the baby,” Ekas adds.

“The idea is to figure out what’s going on with the baby’s emotional functioning and how all these different aspects of themselves and their environment are influencing that,” Ekas says. ­

To participate
The TCU Faces lab needs families (moms, dads and infants) to participate in the TCU Babies and Families Project. Participants receive a $30 gift certificate to a local retailer at each visit. If interested, please call 817-257-4185 or e-mail

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