A Quantitative Evaluation of Thin Slice Sampling for Parent–Infant Interactions

Romana Burgess*, Ilaria Costantini, Marc H. Bornstein, Amy Campbell, Miguel A. Cordero Vega, Iryna Culpin, Hayley Dingsdale, Rosalind M. John, Mari Rose Kennedy, Hannah R. Tyson, Rebecca M. Pearson, Ian Nabney

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Behavioural coding is time-intensive and laborious. Thin slice sampling provides an alternative approach, aiming to alleviate the coding burden. However, little is understood about whether different behaviours coded over thin slices are comparable to those same behaviours over entire interactions. To provide quantitative evidence for the value of thin slice sampling for a variety of behaviours. We used data from three populations of parent-infant interactions: mother-infant dyads from the Grown in Wales (GiW) cohort (n = 31), mother-infant dyads from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) cohort (n = 14), and father-infant dyads from the ALSPAC cohort (n = 11). Mean infant ages were 13.8, 6.8, and 7.1 months, respectively. Interactions were coded using a comprehensive coding scheme comprised of 11–14 behavioural groups, with each group comprised of 3–13 mutually exclusive behaviours. We calculated frequencies of verbal and non-verbal behaviours, transition matrices (probability of transitioning between behaviours, e.g., from looking at the infant to looking at a distraction) and stationary distributions (long-term proportion of time spent within behavioural states) for 15 thin slices of full, 5-min interactions. Measures drawn from the full sessions were compared to those from 1-, 2-, 3- and 4-min slices. We identified many instances where thin slice sampling (i.e., < 5 min) was an appropriate coding method, although we observed significant variation across different behaviours. We thereby used this information to provide detailed guidance to researchers regarding how long to code for each behaviour depending on their objectives.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)117-210
Number of pages94
JournalJournal of Nonverbal Behavior
Issue number2
Early online date19 Jan 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The UK Medical Research Council and Wellcome (Grant ref: 217065/Z/19/Z) and the University of Bristol provide core support for ALSPAC. This publication is the work of the authors; RB, IC, IC, and RP (ALSPAC), and HT, HD and RJ (GiW) will serve as guarantors for the contents of this paper. A comprehensive list of grants funding is available on the ALSPAC website ( http://www.bristol.ac.uk/alspac/external/documents/grant-acknowledgements.pdf ); This work is part of a project that has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (Grant Agreement No. 758813; MHINT). The Grown in Wales study was funded by Medical Research Council (MRC) Grant MR/M013960/1; the Grown in Wales Infant study and HD were funded by The Waterloo Foundation Grants 918-3022 201 and 1403-4535, and HT was funded by Wellcome Trust doctoral training Grant 19100-BV19108003. RB was supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Digital Health and Care Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) at the University of Bristol (UKRI Grant No. EP/S023704/1). Dr Culpin was supported by the Wellcome Trust Research Fellowship in Humanities and Social Science (Grant ref: 212664/Z/18/Z).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, The Author(s).


  • Behavioural coding
  • Grown in wales
  • Markov chain processes
  • Parent–infant interactions


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