Emotional and Social Development in Infancy and Toddlerhood
Erikson’s Theory of Infant and Toddler Personality- Erikson differed from Freud in
believing the important thing during the Oral stage was the quality of caregiving.
Parents will establish a sense of safety in the baby by responding quickly and effectively
to the baby’s needs, using affection, soft speech, and letting the baby lead in transitions.
 Basic Trust vs. Mistrust is the challenge of infancy- if the balance of care is
affectionate and loving, the baby will establish a sense of trust in the world and
others. This relates to developing an optimistic expectation from others and from
his own efforts to relate to others. It allows him to venture out confidently with a
positive expectation of success. Mistrustful babies expend a lot of energy trying to
protect and defend themselves. Their withdrawing behavior triggers negative
responses from others- creating a negative cycle of interactions.
 Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt is the challenge of the second year of life.
While it looks willful and negative to parents, it is essential for babies to establish
a unique sense of self and their own sense of competency. This develops
confidence and willingness to explore and try new activities- the essence of the
learning experience. Once again it depends on the willingness of a parent to be
patient while a baby tries to dress herself, feed herself, say No when she doesn’t
want something offered. Toileting is the classic learning and self-control
challenge of this stage, and parents can easily use shame and disgust when
teaching this. Babies internalize pride or shame depending on the responses they
get from parents. Shame shuts down efforts to learn new things. It also affects the
development of safe and reciprocal relationships later on.
Emotional Development
o Basic emotions are as important in development as having the ability to
experience pain in the body. People who don’t have pain receptors don’t
live to adulthood usually, since they can’t assess their needs and get help
when hurt. Our emotional responses give us important information about
our emotional needs. The basic emotions are: happiness, interest, surprise,
fear, anger, sadness, disgust. Those varied emotional states develop from
the initial emotional states of pleasant attraction to stimuli or withdrawal
from unpleasant stimuli. It takes about 6 mo. to coordinate facial
expressions, postures and body language to clearly communicate a feeling
state in response to a stimulus. This is learned from watching modelsparents’ and siblings’ facial responses and voices. Maternal depression
can negatively affect a baby’s ability to develop a range of emotional
expressions. The mother doesn’t interact with the baby responsively, so
the baby gets a sense of impotence in the world. It seems the baby will
almost catch the depression from the mother if it lasts too long. These
depressed babies sleep poorly, are less responsive to their environment &
have higher levels of stress hormones. The less the parent responds to the
baby, the more chance of disruption of the attachment bond. This results in
negative, irritable mood which triggers greater irritability in the mother.
The mothers also develop a negative view of their babies and respond
inconsistently to the baby. The baby can develop adjustment problems
such as withdrawal, depression, anger, antisocial behavior. Once the baby
has developed such a negative world view, it will affect their sense of
safety and confidence in their ability to manage stress. Mothers with postpartum depression need quick treatment, pharmaceutically as well as
through therapy to avoid long-term damage to their babies’ emotional
well-being. Sometimes other relationships with siblings and dad can buffer
the damage.
o Happiness- Babies show happiness when they do things for the first time,
as well as responding to others’ expressions. They smile when fed and
stroked. Social smile occurs between 6 and 10 weeks, as their sensory
systems become more acute. Laughs occur in response to very active
stimuli, when surprised, during peekaboo. Certain people elicit smiles and
laughs from a baby based on their past experiences together.
o Anger and Fear- these emotions are expressed in response to pain,
distress, frustration at having a need unmet. Fear arises in the second half
of the first year, particularly in response to novel experiences, heights,
loud noises. Stranger anxiety is a common fear- to unfamiliar adults. It
depends on how intrusive the stranger is and if the environment is
unfamiliar, also. These reactions increase with age and serve to keep
babies from being too risk-taking and getting into trouble. Culture makes a
difference, too, as more communal systems engender less stranger anxiety.
o Understanding and responding to the Emotions of others- Babies are
able to mimic the expressions of others within months, and they “catch”
the feelings of others through an emotional contagion. As they match the
emotional expressions of others, it contributes to bonding with others. It
teaches babies that they can predict a particular experience if they can read
the expressions of others.
o Social referencing occurs as babies understand that expressions have
meaning for them- they begin to read others, especially parents’ faces, to
know whether they can expect a good experience or not when things are
ambiguous to them. This social information can guide their behavior and
reactions. By the end of the 2nd year, babies can compare their feelings
about an event to others and know that they can be different.
o Self-conscious emotions are second-order emotions: shame,
embarrassment, guilt, envy, and pride. These emotions represent either
injury to or enhancement of our sense of self. Embarrassment causes us to
withdraw to hide, but pride causes us to feel happy and want to tell others
what we have accomplished. These emotions require the development of a
sense of self, which occurs in the middle of the second year. Envy of
others occurs by age 3. Parents are important in teaching children what
experiences warrant these emotional reactions. These emotions relate to
developing moral behaviors and achievement. So each culture determines
what sorts of activities are moral or respected.
Emotional self-regulation is all the ways we adjust our emotional state to a
manageable level of intensity to stay on task. We learn as babies how to increase
our alertness or zone out distressing stimuli. Babies can turn away from
unpleasant stimuli, or suck on a finger, or cry for a comforter, but they don’t have
a lot of means of regulating their arousal. As the cerebral cortex develops, parents
start showing babies games and toys and help them shift their attention to objects.
Shifting attention helps babies manage emotions. The more responsive parents are
to babies’ rising anxiety, the more calm the babies can remain. Without external
regulation early on, babies can develop an anxious, reactive temperament. Adults
also model how to express emotions- how overtly, aggressively, or quietly. Boys
are more tightly regulated in expressing emotions of sadness or fear. Girls get
more negative messages about expressing anger or aggression. When children
develop language, they have another means of expression that also gets their
needs met more accurately, so they tend to calm down after the 2nd year.
Temperament is described as stable individual differences in intensity of emotional
reaction, activity level, attention and emotional self-regulation. These traits become the
adult personality. It has clear biological roots, but parenting styles can impact it.
 Models of temperament
o Thomas and Chess – 9 dimensions of temperament were isolated in
determining aspects of enduring temperament. They seemed to cluster in
patterns that showed 3 types of personality types:
 Easy child (40%) is easy to establish routines, generally happy and
easy to adapt.
 Difficult child (10%) is irregular in routines, slow to accept new
people and experiences, generally reacts negatively to new things.
This type puts children at risk for later problems, anxiety and
withdrawal or aggression.
 Slow-to-warm-up child (15%) is less active, mildly reactive to
stimuli, negative in mood, and adjusts slowly to new things.
o Rothbart – 6 dimensions of temperament includes some aspects in
addition to Chess: attention span/ persistence and irritable distress, which
has to do with self-regulation.
o Biological basis of temperament have been studied using inhibited or shy
children, versus uninhibited or sociable children.
 Physiological correlates of shyness and sociability- Kagan is
known for using novel experiences with babies and then studying
babies’ physiology. 20% of babies were shy and upset by novelty,
and 40% were comfortable with new experiences. Later in life the
more inhibited babies became fearful, inhibited children. And
those less inhibited because outgoing children. It seems to
represent a significant different in the reactivity of the amygdale, a
brain structure that controls avoidance reactions. Shy children have
a more easily excitable amygdale, so the body is being prepared for
threat when faced with novel stimuli. Bolder children have a less
reactive amygdala.
Heart rate – shy children have higher heart rates, which
speed up even more in novel situations.
 Cortisol – is a hormone that regulates blood pressure and
helps manage stress and it is higher in more shy children.
 Pupil dilation, blood pressure, and skin temperature –
shy children have greater pupil dilation, rise in blood
pressure and cooler skin when faced with novelty.
 Greater right brain activity in shy children, which relates
to negative emotion processing. Bolder children have
greater left brain activity- greater positive emotion
 Long-term consequences can be difficult for easily
aroused, fearful children, but they can be taught how to
approach new situations with warmth and support.
Stability of temperament is moderate over the lifespan. It is most
stable for children at the extreme ends of the spectrum. There is
more stability when measured after the second year of life, but
traits can be modified by learning and experience.
Genetic influences relate to cultural patterns, as Asian babies are
less active, less irritable, less, vocal and more easily soothed and
better at self-soothing than Caucasian babies. There are general
gender differences, as boys tend to be more active and risk-taking
and girls tend to be more restrained & harm-avoidant.
Environmental influences relate to cultural beliefs about the
nature of man. Americans believe babies are dependent at birth and
must be trained to be independent. Asian mothers believe babies
are independent at birth and must be trained to depend on others
and work cooperatively. The different belief systems produce
different patterns of soothing or stimulation by the mothers. Based
on gender expectations, parents perceive gender appropriate
behaviors from boys or girls, even in the presence of the same
behavior. So gender training begins at birth. Parents begin treating
a boy or girl baby in such a way as to bring out the behavior they
think they see- strong and independent, or soft and gentle. Parents
also compare siblings and begin the process of emphasizing traits
specific to each child according to the role the parent is grooming
the child for. Parents really don’t treat all children alike, but part of
that is due to the individual responses of each child to the parent’s
Goodness-of-fit is the concept that the child-rearing environment
that best fits the child’s needs and personality will foster the
healthiest outcome for that child. Parenting that is consistent,
warm, firm but reasonable will give shy and difficult children a
better chance to overcome the handicaps of their personalities.
Attachment is the affectional tie we have with close people in our lives that brings us
pleasure and joy when we are with them, and we are comforted by them under stress.
Attachment generally is in place by the second half of the first year, if the caretaker has
been responsive and caring. Babies display this by smiling when they see the special
person, patting her face, snuggling into her neck, clinging when anxious. This bond is
very important for forming the template for all later relationships. Harlow exhibited that
feeding alone was not sufficient to create bonding (surrogate monkey mother studies).
Babies become bonded to people in their world who do not feed them much, as well as to
cuddly objects, blankets, and other soothing objects.
 Ethological theory of attachment says attachment and bonding is essential to
promote survival of the species. We have developed an ability to attach over the
generations to insure that someone will meet our needs when we are so helpless.
Bowlby believes that attachment has strong biological roots, set up with signals
the baby offers to call the adult to attention.
o Stages of forming an attachment:
 Preattachment phase (Birth to 6 weeks) Signals such as smiling,
crying and gazing into the adult’s eyes bring the baby into close
contact with adults. Then babies show they are comforted by this
closeness, and it reinforces the adult to stay close.
 Attachment-in-the-making phase (6 weeks to 8 months) Infants
respond differently to a familiar caregiver than to a stranger. They
may babble more, or smile, laugh in the interactions with the
special person. When they get a positive response from the other,
they develop a sense of trust in others as well as a sense of
competence in their own ability to affect others. Still there is little
protest when separated.
 Phase of clear-cut attachment- (6 – 8 months until 18 mo. to 2
years) Babies show separation anxiety by becoming upset when
their adult leaves. This increases between 6 and 15 months. They
exhibit behaviors designed to keep the person near: crawling after
the other, climbing on her, even using the other as a secure base in
a new environment from which to explore.
 Formation of reciprocal relationship (18 mo. – 2 years+)
Language development allows the baby to understand why mom
leaves and that she will come back. Protest at separation declines.
Internal working model is a set of expectations about the availability of
the support person and their ability to soothe the baby when stressed. It
does show this first relationship as the model for all later close
 Assessment of attachment- the Strange Situation was designed by Ainsworth
in order to assess levels of attachment. The thesis is that babies who are securely
attached use the parent as a secure base from which to explore. Four levels of
attachment have been identified:
o Secure attachment (65%) These babies do use the parent as a secure
base. They show a preference for the parent over another adult, and when
the parent returns s/he is greeted with attention, & the baby seeks contact
and stops most crying.
o Avoidant attachment (20%) These babies are unresponsive to the parent,
not distressed when the parent leaves, and react to strangers the same as to
the parent. When the parent returns, the baby avoids the parent or fails to
o Resistant attachment (10 – 15%) These babies are angry and resistant to
the caregiver, even though they also cling. They aren’t easily soothed by
the parent and may even hit the parent.
o Disorganized-disoriented attachment (5 – 10%) These babies show the
most disturbed pattern with confused, odd postures.
Cultural variations in forming attachments
SES influences attachment to some extent- most middle-SES babies
display a secure attachment. Babies in low-SES homes often face many stressors,
so they may become more insecurely attached, depending on the stability of the
chief caregiver. Disorganized- disoriented babies experience much negative
caregiving so long that they develop a poor ability to self-regulate, so their
emotional style will persist. German culture stresses independence in children at
an early age, so more avoidant attachments are observed there. Japanese babies
exhibit more resistant attachment, but they are rarely left with strangers, so the
Strange Situation may not clearly depict their normal attachment style.
Factors that affect attachment security
o Opportunity for attachment- The Spitz study of babies given up by their
mothers to an institution with one caregiver per 7 babies shows that these
babies could not bond with a single caregiver and they deteriorated
emotionally. Orphanages with high turnover and inconsistency in
caregivers disrupt the process of bonding for babies. Some studies have
shown that children in institutions adopted later in age do bond with their
adoptive parents as late as 4 – 6 years of age. Even so, these children had
other emotional/ social problems: over-friendliness to strangers, few
friendships with peers, attention-seeking by adults.
o Quality of Caregiving
o Sensitive caregiving means responding to baby’s needs promptly,
consistently and effectively, as well as holding them closely and
tenderly. This is related to developing attachment security.
Insecurely attached babies were held less, more awkwardly,
managed in a routine manner, even resentfully.
o Interactional synchrony is a well-tuned emotional dance between
caregiver and infant, where each is responsive to the signals given
by the other. They match emotional states, especially positive ones.
When this match occurs, babies tend to be securely attached. This
parenting style is more relaxed and flexible, with an ability to
repair emotional breakdowns. Avoidant babies receive intrusive
care, inappropriate to the baby’s current need. So the baby tries to
avoid the mother and her disturbing stimulation. Resistant babies
get inconsistent care, either getting no response from the mother,
or interruptions of their explorations. These mothers tend to be
narcissistic, needing the baby to be focused on her, rather than the
mother being focused on the baby. Child abuse and neglect are
associated with all the insecure types of attachment, but especially
the disorganized type. Depressed or traumatized mothers also
produce an insecure type of attachment.
o Infant characteristics also affect the quality of attachment. Anything that
makes caregiving more stressful can diminish attachment, such as
prematurity, birth problems, newborn illness. Irritable, emotionally
reactive or difficult babies may be more likely to develop insecure
attachments. When parents can be trained to respond sensitively to a needy
baby, that baby often becomes more secure and less demanding, forming a
more secure attachment. What is hard to define, though, is a specific trait
affecting attachment, since the most important aspect of attachment is
goodness-of-fit between the parent and child. So the more flexible the
parent is, as well as responsive to whatever needs the baby has, the better
chance there is of forming a strong attachment.
o Family circumstances can impact bonding. Such things as job loss,
marital instability, financial problems can overwhelm parents’ ability to
focus attention on baby’s needs. Some social supports (day care, extended
family) can take up the slack, but parents need to be primary in meeting
babies needs in order to form a strong bond. The parents’ own attachment
to their parents relates to the bonds formed with their children. Parents are
extrapolating from their reconstructed memories of their childhoods.
These memories are affected by current emotional situations, later
experiences with parents, and the parents’ cognitive makeup. Sometimes
the early years represent such pain and disappointment to a person that
those people grow up determined to do very different things with their
own children- effectively reparenting themselves in the process.
o Day Care and attachment security have been found to be
related- if the baby is in full-time daycare before 12 months. Some
of the factors that relate to this insecurity are:
 Attachment quality is not very different for children in
day care- 36% insecurely attached vs. 29% children staying
at home.
 Family circumstances can affect bonding if mom is overstressed by her multiple roles and demands. It may also be
that these babies are comfortable with separation from the
parent due to months of day care, so their response in the
Strange Situation is not a real accurate measure of their
bonds to parents.
 Quality and extent of day care is important- poor quality
child care, or too many hours in day care do relate to higher
rates of insecure attachment. Better quality day care relates
to greater social skills by age 3. Too many hours in day
care relates to behavior problems, disobedience and
aggression by age 5. Consistent day care can make up for
some insecurity in the parental relationship, though.
 The most important thing to take from these findings is
the need for high quality day care, as well as paid family
leave for parents who wish to stay home with their
babies longer, and better pay and benefits for day care
providers, so the turnover will lessen and babies will have
opportunities to bond with caregivers.
o Multiple attachments
 Fathers can bond with babies as well as mothers, if they
show a sensitivity and responsiveness to the baby’s needs.
Mothers and fathers relate to babies in different ways,
though. Fathers play more with babies and they play
differently with babies. Fathers play more physically,
bouncing and lifting baby, especially boys. In 2 employer
homes, fathers do offer more caretaking today, though.
Very involved fathers are less gender-stereotyped. Fathers
will be more involved if the mother believes that fathers
can be effective nurturers, though. Mothers are gatekeepers of fathers’ involvement with babies. The more
cooperative the marital relationship is, the more involved
the father will be.
 Siblings are significant to 80% of babies. A new baby
forces the older sib to share the parent and attention. So a
new baby is a mixed blessing to the older child, maybe not
appreciated until adulthood. But siblings also take on a
more responsible, mature role of helper when a new baby
comes. The baby, of course, tries to imitate the older
sibling as soon as physically possible, being a source of
pride and irritation to the older sib. If the sibling has a
secure bond with the parent, it relates to more positive
interactions between the children. Parents can either teach
cooperation and care between the sibs, or promote rivalry
by comparing the two children negatively.
 Encouraging affection between siblings- The
sibling relationship is as difficult to manage as later
intimate relationships in life. We develop social
skills of care, kindness and negotiation in these
early relationships, but these characteristics are not
what most children care to develop at that age
(maybe never!) Parents can give extra time to the
older child, especially time alone with that child, so
s/he doesn’t feel deprived or insignificant to the
parent. The parent needs to respond to the older
child’s needs patiently and sensitively, recognizing
the emotional difficulty the child is having. The
parent can teach the older sib the special needs and
abilities of the baby, so the older child develops
empathy and consideration for others.
Attachment and later development – Securely attached children are
rated high in self-esteem, social skills, cooperative, and popular with other
children. Avoidantly attached children are seen as isolated, and resistantly
attached children are seen as disruptive and difficult in general.
Disorganized-disoriented children are consistently related to hostility and
aggression later in life. Secure attachment relates to emotional and social
competence in later childhood. Children are resilient beings, so some
overcome setbacks early in life with alternative relationships outside the
family, as well as personal accomplishments.
Self-Development during the first two years
o Self-Awareness is the emergence of a recognition of oneself as separate from
others, with a separate body and understanding.
o I-self is the sense of self as an agent- in control of one’s own thoughts and
actions. It is essential in developing personal motivation to feel one is an
agent that can work on the world or influence others.
o Me-self is a sense of self as an object of knowledge and evaluationwhat you think of as your unique self: physical characteristics,
possessions, attitudes, personality traits. This separate self is emerging
by age 2, using the red dot on the nose test, or the fact that the baby
will recognize herself in pictures and use the personal pronoun, I or
me to refer to herself. Secure attachment aids this emerging self
awareness. Memory for one’s experiences depends on this sense of
o Empathy is the ability to understand another’s emotions or feel with that
person and respond appropriately emotionally. Babies in a nursery cry in
response to others crying, but toddlers will offer soothers that they
personally use when upset, whether that blanket or stuffed animal would
help the problem or not. Babies begin putting themselves in categories
between 18 and 30 mo.- by age, sex, physical characteristics, goodness.
When they start recognizing gender, they start increasing gender-typed
behaviors, playing with toys appropriate to their gender, etc.
o Self-Control is the capacity to resist an impulse toward disapproved behavior. It
becomes the basis of moral behavior. Self-control indicates memory for banned
behaviors, as well as projection of possible consequences of that behavior, and
ability to distract oneself and shift attention.
o Compliance indicates awareness of parental wishes and voluntary
understanding and obedience to commands. Babies who have experienced
warm and reciprocal parenting tend to be less oppositional and more likely
to internalize parental instructions and values. In research, toddlers are
asked not to touch something while the researcher leaves, then they were
watched to see if they complied. Their ability to wait or resist temptation
extended steadily up to 30 mo., indicating brain development as well as
self-control. Children with greater attentional control and language
development have greater self-control in general. Girls usually lead boys
in this area. One of the ways children try to comply with the restriction
research is to sing to themselves or talk to themselves. Toddlers do require
several prompts when expected to comply, however, and parents need to
understand that this is normal, not a measure of a toddler’s resistance to
authority. Parents can enhance cooperation by reinforcing obedient and
compliant behavior, encouraging attention to tasks or stimuli, working on
language development, and gradually extending the challenge of rules.