Does 'wanting the best' create more stress? The link between baby sign classes and maternal anxiety

Neil Howlett, Elizabeth Kirk, Karen J. Pine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
57 Downloads (Pure)


This study investigated whether gesturing classes (baby sign) affected parental frustration and stress, as advertised by many commercial products. The participants were 178 mother-infant dyads, divided into a gesture group (n=89) and a non-gesture group (n=89), based on whether they had attended baby sign classes or not. Mothers completed a background demographics questionnaire and the Parenting Stress Index. Gesturing mothers had higher total stress scores, with higher scores on the child domain, despite having similar backgrounds to non-gesturing mothers. There was no relationship between the frequency or duration of gesture use and stress scores. It is suggested that gesturing mothers had higher pre-existing stress and were attracted to gesture classes because of the promoted benefits, which include stress reduction, although class attendance did not alleviate their stress. The possibility that attending gesturing classes made mothers view their infant in a more negative way, due to their heightened expectations not being met, is also discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)437-445
Number of pages9
JournalInfant and Child Development
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • gesture
  • stress
  • infant
  • parent
  • baby sign


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