Module 2 Notes
Section 1
Section 2
Section 3

Emotional Development

Section 3, Article 2 - When babies are born, two emotions are clearly expressed: distress and pleasure. Within a few weeks, the baby’s emotional repertoire expands as he or she smiles (around six weeks) and laughs (around two-four months)(; ). Anger is seen around six months and is typically caused by frustration. Sadness appears around the same time. Fear of new situations and strangers is seen around the ninth month as children begin to experience and  or (). Separation anxiety is typical behavior for children near their first birthday, and while it typically becomes worse from 12-24 months, it then disappears after the child turns two.

For babies, sadness may be harmful to development.

In an interesting study, researchers tested the reaction of four-month old babies to a situation in which their goal-oriented behavior was blocked. The result? Babies either exhibited anger or sadness. The infants expressing sadness withdrew from attempting to overcome the frustrating experience. Those who withdrew their efforts, and appeared sad because of it showed evidence of increased cortisol production. Cortisol is one of the ways our body responds to stress; over-production of stress can cause long-lasting damage to the child’s developing brain. The researchers theorize that the emotional response of sadness is likely linked to feelings of helplessness or loss of control (Lewis & Ramsay, 2005).

As babies progress into the toddler years, most parents find that their toddler is more discriminating (they fear fewer things) and their emotional responses to experiences are typically more intense. There is a reason the beginning of toddlerhood is known as the “terrible twos,” as this age marks the introduction of emotion in its fullest forms. While no gender differences are observed in how infants express emotion, a quite small yet significant gender difference in toddlers was found by . This difference became more pronounced over time, with females exhibiting higher frequencies of positive emotions and internalizing emotions such as anxiety and sympathy in relation to their male counterparts who exhibited higher frequencies of externalizing emotions such as anger.

During the first two years of life, an important milestone of psychosocial development is self-awareness and social awareness. Imitation, is an early indication of social awareness which begins very early in infancy () As the child grows, evidence of social awareness emerges between seven and twelve months as parents use modeling and instruction to help their child learn what is acceptable within their family and culture.  also becomes evident at this time as children begin to identify emotions in other people and attempt to respond appropriately (; ; ). It is not until 15 to 24 months that children have the self-awareness to recognize themselves.

Parental and Social Bonds
Emotions and the Brain