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The Infant's Emotional Development Stages

by
author image Carolyn Robbins
Carolyn Robbins began writing in 2006. Her work appears on various websites and covers various topics including neuroscience, physiology, nutrition and fitness. Robbins graduated with a bachelor of science degree in biology and theology from Saint Vincent College.
The Infant's Emotional Development Stages
An infant's smile is initially reflexive. Photo Credit Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images

From the day of his birth, your infant's every smile, kick and giggle are a source of delight. Almost immediately, babies start to interact with the world around them and the first 18 months are marked by rapid psychological and emotional growth and development. Discuss your baby's mental health with his pediatrician for a better understanding of his emotional development stages.

Erikson's Stages of Development

Psychoanalyst Erik Erikson, who began his career in the early 20th century, broke the course of human maturation down into eight developmental stages. Infancy, which he defined as the period from birth to 18 months, is the time when a child learns to either trust or distrust the world and the people around him. According to Erikson, when a mother responds quickly to a baby's cries for food, a dry diaper and affection, the child learns to trust. If the infant's cries are ignored, his feelings of self-worth are undermined and he becomes frustrated.

First 6 Months

An infant's first means of communicating his emotions is to cry. Babies cry when they are hungry, cold, surprised, frightened, startled, wet, tired or in pain. New mothers and fathers quickly learn to differentiate between different types of cries and respond to their child's needs accordingly. A newborn may smile occasionally in the first few weeks when his belly is full or when he is passing gas. At around 1 to 2 months, babies smile when they see someone they recognize or when someone else smiles at them. By 4 months, infants will smile or giggle when they are content or in recognition of a family member.

6 to 12 Months

In the 6 to 12 month stage, infants develop a more complicated understanding of their relationship to the surrounding world. For instance, it is not uncommon for babies in this stage to develop a fear of strangers and exhibit anxiety when they are separated from a parent. A baby in this stage may be fascinated by his image in the mirror and will react when someone says his name. Additionally, 6-to-12-month-old infants respond to commands and have some understanding of acceptable behaviors.

12 to 18 Months

In the final stage of infant development, babies continue to demonstrate parental attachment and some separation anxiety. Their interactions with others become more complex and they enjoy sharing their toys and books. According to Leisa Oesterreich, family life extension specialist at the University of Iowa, infants in the 12-to-18-month stage frequently mimic the actions of adults and enjoy "performing" when their behavior elicits a positive reaction such as clapping.

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