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Autism Research and Treatment
Volume 2013, Article ID 705895, 12 pages
Research Article

Reciprocity in Interaction: A Window on the First Year of Life in Autism

1Scientific Institute “Fondazione Stella Maris”, Viale del Tirreno, 331, I-56018, Calambrone, Pisa, Italy
2Institute of Clinical Physiology, National Council of Research (CNR), Via G. Moruzzi 1, 56124 Pisa, Italy
3Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Groupe Hospitalier Pitié-Salpétrière, APHP, Université Pierre et Marie Curie, 47 bd de l'Hôpital, 75013 Paris, France
4Department of Developmental Neuropsychiatry, University of Pisa, Viale del Tirreno, 331, I-56018, Calambrone, Pisa, Italy

Received 11 January 2013; Revised 26 March 2013; Accepted 17 April 2013

Academic Editor: Bennett L. Leventhal

Copyright © 2013 Fabio Apicella et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


From early infancy onwards, young children appear motivated to engage reciprocally with others and share psychological states during dyadic interactions. Although poor reciprocity is one of the defining features of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), few studies have focused on the direct assessment of real-life reciprocal behavior; consequently, our knowledge of the nature and the development of this core feature of autism is still limited. In this study, we describe the phenomenon of reciprocity in infant-caregiver interaction by analyzing family movies taken during the first year of life of 10 infants with ASD and 9 infants with typical development (TD). We analyzed reciprocal behaviors by means of a coding scheme developed for this purpose (caregiver-infant reciprocity scale (CIRS)). Infants with ASD displayed less motor activity during the first semester and subsequently fewer vocalizations, compared to TD infants. Caregivers of ASD infants showed in the second semester shorter periods of involvement and a reduction of affectionate touch. These results suggest that from the first months of life a nonsynchronic motor-vocal pattern may interfere in different ways with the development of reciprocity in the primary relationship between infants later diagnosed with ASD and their caregivers.