Stages of Emotional Development in Infants ( 0 to 1 Year)

Emotional Development in Infants – Stages and Tips

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Rashmi Prakash (Psychologist/Psychotherapist)
View more Psychologist/Psychotherapist Our Panel of Experts

Within a few months of birth, you will start noticing that your child’s behaviour has started changing quite rapidly. From the incessantly crying and hungry little newborn, your baby will now be looking around with curiosity, responding to your voices with coos or even showing signs of recognition when you hold him. The emotional development of infants in the early stages of their lives is what unlocks the social skills and makes them understand the different cues of communication and expression in a better way. This article will help you understand these stages and also provide some ways for you to boost your child’s emotional development.

Video : Emotional Development in Infants – Stages and Signs of Problems

What Is Emotional Development?

Certain reflexes are present in the human body from birth. But a lot of habits that we develop are a result of observing others and understanding how to process what we feel. This, at the very core, is the foundation of emotional development. We may continue to learn these things throughout our lives, but the very basics are picked up in the infancy. Not only does it affect mental health, but it also brings about a different perspective on learning and exploring new things. Getting the hang of your own emotions allows your child to continue moving ahead despite any obstacles or learn to ask for help when needed.

A Baby’s Emotional Development Stages

A baby’s emotional development can be understood with stages of growth.

1 to 3 Months Old

In these early months, your child has just started getting out of the usual groove of crying and peeing and feeding and begun to perceive the existence of a world around him. Everything is completely new for your child, and he is taking it all in.

At This Stage, Your Child Can

  • Start seeing things a tad clearly than before.
  • Begin to sense familiar people and be calmed by them.
  • Respond to someone touching him in a positive manner.
  • Understanding the security of a human presence and stop crying when picked up.
  • Become focused and seem to concentrate when hearing voices.
  • Make weird smiles or faces when someone talks to him.

A Baby's Emotional Development Stages

3 to 6 Months Old

From 18-24 weeks, your child begins to know he is an individual by himself, too. As he discovers the presence of a world and different people, he begins to discover his own hands and become comfortable with familiar people.

At This Stage, Your Child Can

  • Make better smiles and laugh out softly on finding something exciting.
  • Begin to recognise you and any other people who frequently appear.
  • Understand the need to communicate discomfort and ask for a cuddle by crying differently.
  • Begin to flail around arms and legs in excitement or simply to communicate.
  • Perceive the difference between two people and know they are separate individuals.
  • Possibly recognise himself in a mirror and laugh out loud.
  • Look at other babies and find a sense of companionship.
  • Start showing responses when called by his name.

3 to 6 Months Old

6 to 9 Months Old

Your toddler has now begun exploring the space around him and understand the nuances of communication. He will not only be able to express a range of emotions in a better way, but also understand the same emotions when expressed by you.

At This Stage, Your Child Can

  • Enjoy the game of peek-a-boo and shadow puppets a lot.
  • Begin to understand when you refer to him and grasp certain non-verbal cues.
  • Get the meaning behind an angry face or a loud voice and respond appropriately.
  • Develop the concept of possession and demand to have his toy back and cry if taken away.
  • Look for comfort from familiar people, especially when new people are around.
  • Resort to sucking his thumb or his fist to soothe himself.

6 to 9 Months Old

10 to 12 Months Old

As your child approaches closer to a year, he starts getting the hang of his home and the concept of family. He starts expressing his emotions in a wider variety, engages in carrying out activities himself, and seeks validation and approval from the ones close to him.

At This Stage, Your Child Can

  • Get overtly attached to you or your partner and constantly yearn for it.
  • Start preferring certain jokes or funny actions and repeat them himself.
  • Cooperate with you in some actions, and detest others.
  • Start throwing temper tantrums when things don’t go his way.
  • Look for your validation on doing something good or start clapping himself.
  • Start having a sense of self-esteem and keep himself engaged at times.

10 to 12 Months Old

Just like any other growth milestone, emotional development also has its own pace, and it depends from one infant to another. In some kids, it could be delayed, too. If you are wondering how you can identify a problem with your baby’s emotional development, you should read on for the signs.

Signs of a Problem With Your Baby’s Emotional Development

Facing problems with emotional development can swing both ways. Your child could tend to not have a handle on his emotions, leading to frequent breakdowns and tantrums. On the other hand, he could be emotionally stunted and not understand social cues or nuances. This might be confusing for parents since nearly all babies show signs of both spectrums occasionally. They might get angry about a specific thing, or they might retreat into themselves and prefer playing alone.

But, problems are usually present if your child continues to be scared and worried all the time. A tiny interaction with a stranger could set him off, leading him to cry for extended durations. This could cause problems for him as he might struggle to sleep and keep waking up with a startle or refuse to feed as well.

Exposure to a new environment or when things do not go as planned or something unexpected coming up could make your child seem disturbed or irritated. The child could then express his irritation in the form of anger or tantrums, which could also involve throwing things around.

Your little one could also be completely disinterested in anything that’s happening around him. Get him a new toy, or take him to a new place, or teach him a new game, nothing would seem to make any difference. He might seem lethargic, which does not mean he sleeps excessively, but he would not want to move around much or keep staring at his favourite toy without making an effort to go and get it.

Some of these issues can start manifesting in physical form as well. The failure to handle emotions puts undue stress on the body as well, which leads to frequent headaches, stomach problems, indigestion, and so on. The lethargy of your child could even hide an illness or a fever which you might discover at a later stage.

How Can You Boost Your Infant’s Emotional Development?

  • Take the first step in initiating communication. Whenever you notice your child to not be in a normal state of mind, talk to him as calmly and sweetly as possible and ask him what’s wrong.

How Can You Boost Your Infant's Emotional Development?

  • Let your child know that it is okay to be frustrated, and there’s a right way of expressing it. This can be done by showing him how you deal with problems. Maybe you are looking for his toy, so talk out your thought process aloud. This might help him respond to you.
  • Opt for using simpler facial expressions when you talk. Avoid sarcasm or complex emotions since your baby is not old enough to understand them. Happiness, sadness, anger, and calm are clearly visible from the face.
  • If your child throws frequent tantrums, nip them in the bud the moment you sense one coming up. Distract him or do something funny to calm him down.
  • There are certain activities for emotional development in infants that you can start undertaking as he grows up. This will teach him to manage his own emotions independently and not resort to your help every single time.
  • Let him feel safe where he is and take baby steps in exploring the unknown. There needs to be a right balance between nudging him to try something new and giving him the time to catch up to it.

Babies learn a lot from the people around them. You are the role model your child will always look up to as he learns more about the world and how people behave. Ensure the right emotional development by keeping the environment at home as conducive as possible for the child. When everyone at home behaves in the right way, your baby will emulate it by himself at home and also out in the world.

Also Read: 5 Major Stages Of Child Development

Previous article «
Next article »