Beatrice Beebe, Ph.D.

Beatrice Beebe Ph.D. is Clinical Professor of Medical Psychology (in Psychiatry), College of Physicians & Surgeons, Columbia University; Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, New York State Psychiatric Institute. She directs a basic research lab on 4- and 12-month mother-infant communication, prior to the infant’s development of language.

Infant preverbal learning of communication patterns lays the foundation for emotional and cognitive development across the lifespan. The lab specializes in the microanalysis of face-to-face non-verbal communication. Resources include a split-screen video-recording and audio-recording studio and an open play space for observing infants and children with their parents.

Her research program investigates mother-infant face-to-face communication and infant social development: the dyadic mechanisms organizing mother-infant social communication, the role that maternal distress plays in this communication, the effects of early mother-infant communication patterns on emerging infant attachment styles, and the long-term continuity of communication and attachment styles from infancy to young adulthood. Video and audio microanalysis of mother-infant behavior has been her focus for four decades. This precise coding, together with a sophisticated statistical method of multi-level time-series analysis, functions like a social microscope, identifying different patterns of contingent relating. These methods have been used in three NIH/NIMH RO1 Grants. She was co-investigator on NIMH RO1 41675 (1985-1990), Interpersonal timing and infant social development, which documented that the degree of contingent vocal coordination between mothers and infants, and strangers and infants, at 4 months, predicted infant attachment at one year. She was PI on NIMH RO1 MH 56130 (1999-2004) which also predicted attachment at one year from mother-infant and stranger-infant interaction at 4 months. In addition, this study showed the impact of maternal depression and anxiety on mother-infant interaction. She have also been the PI of a longitudinal follow-up study of these two cohorts, from infancy to young adulthood, funded by the American Psychoanalytic Association and the International Psychoanalytic Association. This study predicted young adult attachment from degrees of mother-infant and stranger-infant vocal coordination in infancy at 4 and 12 months. Currently she is co-PI (with Julie Herbstman) on R01ES027424, Prenatal endocrine-disrupting chemicals and social/cognitive risk in mothers and infants: Potential biologic pathways. For over a decade, from the spring of 2002, she directed a clinical/research primary prevention project following a cohort of 36 women who were pregnant and widowed on September 11, 2001. Her clinical work focuses on primary prevention in mother-infant dyads at risk for dysregulated social development, a topic on which she has published five articles.