The 1st Two Years: Psychosocial Development

Emotional Development

    The ethological perspective argues that infants are evolutionarily endowed with basic social 
predispositions & skills that contribute to their development.

    Infant's crying, for example, is an innate response that signals caregivers about the baby's needs. 
Complementary adult behaviors have evolved that serve to nurture & comfort the child.
   Infants also engage in "attachment behaviors" that motivate the behavior of parents to care for 
the vulnerable infant.
  Ψ  Newborns appear to have only two identifiable emotions: distress & contentment.
                 Ψ  Age When Emotions Occur
 Age                                                       Emotional Response 

Birth                                                       Crying ( distress ) - Contentment 
6 weeks                                                 Social Smile 
3 months                                                Laughter - Curiosity 
4                                                            Full, responsive smiles 
4- 8                                                        Anger 
9 - 14                                                     Fear of social events ( strangers, separation ) 
18 months                                             Self-awareness: Pride - Shame - Embarrassment 
 Ψ  Smiles of pleasure appear during the first days of life (called "endogenous" smiles). Social smiles 
 (called "exogenous" smiles), to the human face or voice appear at about 6 weeks. One of the most potent 
 stimuli for smiling & laughter are events that the infant can control.   
 Ψ  Infant emotions become more differentiated and distinct between 6- & 9-months of age. They also 
 show greater selectivity in their emotions, and also the ability to suppress competing emotions   
 Ψ  Stranger wariness is evident when an infant no longer smiles at any friendly face & cries if an 
 unfamiliar person moves too close, too quickly. Stranger wariness appears fleetingly around 6 months of age, 
 although it is not always observed and at full force by 10 to 14 months,   
 Ψ  Separation anxiety is expressed in tears & anger when the beloved caregiver leaves. Separation anxiety 
 appears from 6-9 months of age,  peaks around 14 months, then diminishes. Separation anxiety is an indication
 of the child's attachment to the caregiver.  
 •  Separation anxiety occurs as babies begin to understand their own selfhood - or understand that they are a 
 separate person from their primary caregiver. As babies begin to understand that they can be separated from 
 their primary caregiver, they do not understand that their caregiver will return, nor do they have a concept of time. 
 This, in turn, causes a normal & healthy anxious reaction. Separation anxiety typically begins around 8 months of 
 age & increased until 13-15 months, when it begins to decline. If it persists after 3 years of age, it is considered 
 an emotional disorder.   
 •  Separation Anxiety Disorder should not be confused with Separation Anxiety, which occurs as a normal stage 
 of development for healthy, secure babies.  
   By 12-months infant emotions are livelier, and more vital.  Emotional reactions occur more quickly, 
intensely and persistently.

    The emotional expressions of others begin to assume new meaning because infants engage in 
social referencing; the using the emotional reactions of others as an interpretive guide to understanding 
one's own emotional reaction.

    The emergence of self-awareness makes possible many new emotions, including confidence, shame, 
guilt, envy, pride, embarrassment. These "complex emotions" must await the development of a 
self (self-concept).

The Origins of Personality

    It is traditional to assume that personality is molded through the actions of parents (especially the mother)
by establishing patterns of reinforcement (behaviorism-Learning Theory) orby establishing particular 
modes of sensual satisfaction (Psychoanalytic - Freud).

For Erikson, the first years of life presents two psychosocial crises for the child to resolve

    * Trust vs. Mistrust - Hope is the virtue that develops upon successful resolution of this stage.
    * Autonomy vs. Shame & Doubt - Will (Determination) is the virtue that develops upon successful 
resolution of this stage. 

How this is handled will leave a legacy that will influence later development.
    Research has shown that the parents' overall pattern of warmth and sensitivity is more important to 
the child's psychosocial development than the particulars of feeding, weaning and toilet training.
   These traditional psychological theories maintain that personality is shaped by early nurture.

Epigenetic Systems Theory

    Each of the traditional approaches emphasizes the role of the caregiver.  But the child also "brings 
something to the table" biological tendencies called "temperament".

    Temperament refers to a relatively consistent inborn disposition that underlie one's response to 
people and events. It is said to be the building block of personality. It has three dimensions 
(according to Buss):
                •  activity
                    •  emotionality
                        •  sociability

    According to the NYLS, temperament can be distinguished in terms of 9 characteristics evident in 
the first days of life:

    * activity level
    * rhythmicity
    * approach-withdrawal
    * adaptability
    * intensity of reaction,
    * threshold of responsiveness
    * quality of mood
    * distractiability
    * attention-span

    In terms of the above combinations most infants can be described as one of three types: easy/good 
(40%), slow-to-warm-up/shy (15%) and difficult (10%). The rest do not easily fit these categories.

   Differences in temperament can be organized into individual differences in personality (such as the 
"Big Five" trait dimensions) which follow.

    * Openness
    * Conscientiousness
    * Extroversion
    * Agreeableness
    * Neuroticism: anxious, moody, & self-punishing 

    The care giving environment can influence the expression of temperamental dispositions. It is best for 
parents to adjust their child-rearing expectations to their child's temperamental style to minimize conflict. 
This is called, establishing a goodness-of-fit. 

Becoming Social Partners

Synchrony – is the coordinated interaction between infant and parent in which each individual responds 
to and influences the other.

Synchrony may be impaired if:

    * The caregiver ignores the infant’s invitation to interact
    * The caregiver over stimulates a baby who wants to pause and rest.

  Ψ A new connection between parent & child replaces early synchrony toward the end of the 1st year of life. 
This new emotional bond is called attachment.

Cross-cultural Variation

  Ψ  It appears that synchrony (achieved through face-to-face play) is a universal experience, However frequency 
& durations do have wide variations.
    * North American mothers direct their infant's attention away from the relationship.
    * Japanese mothers focus on mutual intimacy.
    * Vietnamese mothers restrict their infants' exploratory activities.
    * Haitian mothers encourage social interaction. 

Fathers play too & they do best at encouraging exploratory activities.


    Attachment– an enduring emotional connection between people that produces a desire for 
continual contact as well as feelings of distress during separation. Used to describe the 
relationship between parents and older infants.

Secure vs. Insecure Attachment

    Secure attachment – a caregiver-infant relationship that provides comfort and confidence. 
This is evidenced first by the infant’s attempts to be close to the caregiver and then by the infant’s 
readiness to explore.

  Ψ  The caregiver’s role in a relationship of secure attachment is to act as a base for exploration to 
which the child freely ventures forth & returns. 

Insecure Attachment

    Insecure Attachment – a caregiver-infant relationship characterized by the child’s overdependence 
on, or lack of interest in, the caregiver. Characterized by a lack of confidence on the part of the child.

Measuring Attachment

    Strange Situation – an experimental condition in which the infant’s behavior is observed in an 
unfamiliar room while the caregiver (mother) and a stranger move in and out of the room.

Types of Attachment

Type B: Secure Attachment (55-65%)
•  Exploration of Toys – a secure toddler plays happily.
•  Reaction to caregiver’s departure – may or may not show signs that caregiver is missed.
•  Reaction to the caregiver’s return – happy to see caregiver.

    Benefits of Secure Attachment: aids both cognitive and social development. Securely attached 
infants are more curious, outgoing, and self-directed.

Type A: Insecure-avoidant (15-25%) - Characteristics: minimally interested in the caregiver, explores 
busily, shows minimal distress at separation, ignores or avoids caregiver on reunion.

Type C: Insecure-resistant (10-15%) - Characteristics: preoccupied with caregiver, has difficulty 
settling down, both seeks & resists contact on reunion, may be angry or very passive.

Type D: Insecure-disorganized (10-20%)

    Remember: Attachment is more influenced by the child's temperament than by the caregiver.

Attachment for Adults - four categories:

•  Autonomous; value close relationships & regard them as influential.
•  Dismissing; devalue the importance of attachments.
•  Preoccupied; very involved with their childhood relationships.
•  Unresolved; past relationships not yet reconciled with current ones.

Key Questions

1. What is the first notable emotion of a newborn, & how does that emotion benefit the newborn?
2. How do emotions develop (change) over the first two years of life?
3. What does an infant get from social referencing - both when the infant engages in it ( at say 8 
months of age & older) & later in life?
4. What are some consequences of the toddler's developing sense of self?
5. What are the similarities & differences between mother-infant & father-infant interactions?
6. In the classical view, who & what determine personality?
7. What is temperament, & how is it related to personality?
8. How does synchrony help in the development of the infant?
9. What are the four main types of attachment?
10. How does early attachment affect later psychosocial growth?
11. In your experience how do infants under the age of 2 react to you? What is it about your 
actions, the infants' age & cognitive development, & the parent's presence that affect 
these reactions?
                                             Human Growth & Development
                                                       Robert C. Gates