Tracing the Roots of Development: Understanding Babyhood in Developmental Psychology

Babyhood is the 3rd stage of life span development, the period of babyhood is from the end of the second week to the end of the second year. Babyhood is the most important period of development

Characteristics of Babyhood

The significant characteristics of babyhood are

Babyhood is the True Foundational Age

For any living species, their earlier period is their foundational age, likewise, for humans, their babyhood is their foundational age. Babyhood is the foundational age because it is when all the basic features of a human being start to develop such as speech, walking, thinking, behavioral patterns, many attitudes, and many patterns of emotional expression, etc. Freud, Erikson, and Piaget have also made contributions to babyhood. The First 2 years of life set the personal and social adjustment patterns.

Freud explained personality maladjustment that happens in adulthood had its origins in unfavorable childhood experiences.

According to Erickson, how babies are treated will determine whether they will develop ‘basic trust’ or ‘basic distrust- viewing the world as safe, reliable, and nurturing or as full of threat, unpredictability, and treachery.

The following four reasons show why foundations during babyhood are important

  • Learning and experience play important roles in development.
  • Early foundations quickly develop into habits.
  • Desirable or undesirable, favor or unfavor attitudes and behaviors start to develop.
  • Once the pattern is established it persists regardless of what it is.

Babyhood is an Age of Rapid Growth and Change

During babyhood, growth is rapid. Babies grow both psychologically and physically. This growth increases the baby’s capacity by all means. While growth is rapid during the entire babyhood period, it is especially during the first year of life.

As a baby starts to grow, the head starts to grow in a larger proportion then their top becomes less heavy and their limbs start to develop to a better proportion. During this time intellectual growth also occurs. Baby gains the ability to recognize and respond to people and objects in the environment.

Babyhood is an Age of Decreasing Dependency

As the baby gets control of the body parts, it gradually becomes less dependent and becomes more independent. As babies gain control over the body, they start to sit, walk, stand and manipulate objects. At first, when the baby takes control over the body parts, the movements will be random, then these random actions tend to form meaningful movements.

With decreased dependency comes a rebellion against being “babied”. They start to protest if they are not left independent.

Babyhood is the Age of Increased Individuality

As a result of independence, babies develop their interest and abilities. The individuality shown in appearance and in patterns of behaviour. As babies gain their individuality, they have to be treated in their individual way, they can be no longer treated in a common way.

Babyhood is the Beginning of Socialization

As baby gains the individuality, it gives way to desire to become a part of the social group. They show the interest in social group by protesting if they are left alone. Through attachment behaviour baby gains the attention and affection of family members or outsiders. But it all starts from mother who gives unconditional attention and affection without expecting anything from the baby.

From the satisfaction of this attachment behaviour the desire to establish warm and lasting relationship with others develops

Babyhood is the Beginning of Sex-Role Typing

Starting from babyhood itself, babies are treated according to their sex. In this sex typing, environment play a main role. According to culture and tradition, there are many customs that a particular gender has to follow. Like dress, toys, behaviour, emotional response, etc.

Babyhood is Appealing Age

As like all other living create, babies look more appealing in this age. Older children as well as adults find small babies appealing because of the helplessness and dependency.

Babyhood is the Beginning of Creativity

When babies are totally dependent on mothers and care takers they are unable to do anything, till they gain muscle control. Once they get the muscle control they become capable of doing creativity. As the baby learns the surroundings, it tend to exhibit more creative stuffs. As Babies are learning, in their early months of life they develop Interest and attitudes that will lay the foundations for later creativity or for conformity to patterns set by others.

By trail or error method, babies tend to learn more and become creative

Babyhood is a Hazardous Age

Even thought there are hazardous at everyage, hazardous at babyhood is more important. This hazardous can be both physical and psychological, which as a result causes death, diability, mental illness to the baby.

Developmental Tasks of Babyhood

  • Learning to Walk
  • To take solid foods
  • Excretion properly at partial bowel control
  • Physiological stability
  • Learn the foundation of speech
  • Relate emotionally to parents and siblings

Even though these tasks are not mastered in babyhood at least the foundations must be laid to avoid lacking behind

  • When babyhood ends, they can able to do all the following
  • Built useful vocabulary
  • Pronounce the word
  • Comprehend simple statements and commands
  • Can use meaningful sentences

also, biological developments happen such as

  • The rapid development of the Nervous system
  • Ossification of the bones
  • Strengthening of the muscle makes it possible for the body to master developmental tasks.

These developments depend on the opportunities, help, and guidance that they are given.

Physiological Development

Sleep Pattern

Night sleep time increases from 8 1/2 hours at 3 weeks to 10 hours at 12 weeks and remains constant. In the first year, wakefulness-sleep cycles of approximately one hour in length occur in both day and night sleep, with deep sleep for 23 minutes.

Eating pattern

From birth until four or five months of age, eating will be like sucking and swallowing. Chewing appears after biting (biting is a basic form). Food dislikes start during the second year. It is difficult for babies to adjust to semisolid form

Patterns of elimination

Bowel control begins at 6 months, and bladder control beings between fifteen and sixteen months. Habits of control are established by the end of babyhood. A temporary lap may be excepted when the baby is tired, ill, or emotionally excited. Bladder control is at basic when the end of babyhood.

Physical Development

The pattern of growth is similar for all babies. There will be variations in height, weight, sensory capacities, and other areas of physical development. Due to malnutrition, and prematurity, some babies lack what they needed. They fall behind their age-mates.


In 1st-year weight increases more than height, in 2nd-year height increases more than weight. At 4 months, weight is doubled. At 1-year baby weights 3 times higher. It is due to fat tissue


At four-month, 23, and 24 inches. At 1 year 28 and 30 inches. At 2 years 32 and 34 inches.

Physical Proportion

Head growth slows down, while trunk and limb growth increases. That is how the baby gradually becomes heavy.


The number of bones increases during babyhood. Ossification of bone begins in the first year but is not complete until puberty

Muscles and Fat

Muscle fibers are present but in undeveloped forms. They grow slowly during babyhood and are weak. Fat tissue developed rapidly during babyhood

Body builds

During the second year of life, as body proportions change, babies tend to show characteristics of body build.

  • Ectomorphic- Long and slender
  • Endomorphic- Round and fat
  • Mesomorphic- Heavy, hard, rectangular

Baby has 4 to 6, 20 temporary teeth, by age 1, and 16 teeth by age 2. The first teeth are front, last are molars. The last four of the temporary teeth usually erupt during the first year of early childhood

Nervous system

Brain weight is one-eight of the baby’s total weight. The gain in brain weight is greater during the first two years of life. This accounts for the baby’s top-heavy appearance.

Sense Organ development

By 3 months, eye-muscle are well- enough coordinated to enable babies to see things clearly and distinctly. Cones are well enough developed to enable them to see colors. Hearing develops rapidly during this time. Smell and taste, which are developed at birth continue to improve during babyhood. Babies are highly responsive to all skin stimuli because of the thin texture of the skin

Muscle control

The baby’s body is in a more or less constant motion similar to the mass activity of the newborn even during sleep. Gradually, these random, meaningless movements become more coordinated, thus making control of the muscle possible. Maturation and learning take place together in the development of muscle control.

As a result of the maturation of muscle, bones, and nerve structures and because of changes that take place in body proportions, babies are able to use their bodies in a coordinated manner. Until the baby is ready, teaching is of no value. The development of control follows a definite predictable pattern. Of course, there will be individual differences in it. Babies who sit early, tend to walk early than babies who sit lately.

To develop baby skills

  • Opportunity
  • Practice
  • Incentive

Imitating model is important, which is seen in blind children showing delayed acquisition of skills.

Hand Skills

They use much of their walking time using their hands. The more hand is used, the more control it gets. During the early period, there is no hand preference. By eight months old, babies do have a preference for hand

  • Self- feeding
  • Self- dressing
  • Self- grooming
  • Play skills

Speech Development

  • The ability to comprehend the meaning of what others are trying to say.
  • The ability to communicate to others in terms they can comprehend.
  • The ability to comprehend is greater than speaking in babyhood
  • The first task to communicate is to understand what others say
  • The speaker’s facial expression, tone of voice, and gestures help babies to understand what is said.
  • Until babies are 18 months old, words should be reinforced with gestures
  • It is based on the baby’s IQ and encouragement from others.
Learning to speak

Pre-speech forms

  • Crying- attempt to communicate
  • Babbling
  • Gestures
  • Emotional expression

By the third, or fourth week, the crying gets differentiated ( tone, intensity, bodily movements). 3-month-old babies know, that crying is the best way to get attention. Helps to know baby is normal, healthy or if anything is wrong.


As the vocal mechanism develops capable of producing a larger member of explosive sounds. They start speaking by combining the vowels – mama, baba, chacha, and nana. Begins during the 2nd and 3rd months, and then gradually to real speech. The peak is at 8 months. Babbling disappears when babyhood comes to an end.


The gesture is used as a supplement, and when even capable of speaking, the gesture is used.

Emotional expression

Babies do not know how to control their expression, so it is easy for others to understand. it is easy for babies to understand others like I’m angry

Tasks in learning to speak


Learn by trial or error method

Vocabulary building

Learn names, words, and verbs


Appears at 12 and 18 months old

Emotional behavior

At first, emotion is undifferentiated. With age, emotional responses become less diffuse, less random, more differentiated, and can be aroused by a wide variety of stimuli. Babies’ emotions are intense and brief. Looks different from adults and other age mates.

Emotions are more easily conditioned during babyhood than at a later age. They respond to something which had an emotional response

Common emotional patterns

Different babies respond to different stimulation in different ways. According to the physical and mental condition of babies variation in emotional response appears. If the baby is punished in the past for their actions to satisfy curiosity, then they will satisfy their curiosity by just watching or observing that stuff. At first, emotion will be neither pleasant nor unpleasant. For some babies, there will be more pleasant situations and for some babies, there will be more unpleasant situations. The more pleasant emotion leads to healthy physical condition.

  • Anger – Anger tends to appear if the baby is not allowed to do what it wants to/ what it likes and not letting themselves understand. Babies show their anger by screaming, kicking, waving, and hitting.
  • Fear – Loud noise, strange person, objects, situations, dark rooms, high places, animals, unexpected happenings which cause babies to cry, short breath holding.
  • Curiosity – At first fear arises, then followed by curiosity, babies use their mouths to explore new things, protruding the tongue, biting, licking, etc
  • Joy – Physical well-being leads to joy in babies. By the second or third month, the baby becomes capable of tickling, watching or listening to others, smiling, laugh.
  • Affection – Anyone who plays with babies, takes care of their bodily needs, or shows them affection will be the stimulus for their affection. Babies express their affection by hugging, patting, and kissing a loved object or person.

Development in Socialization

Early social experience plays a dominant role in future relationships and patterns of behavior toward others. A Baby’s life is centered in the home. Whether they become introverts or extroverts is depend on early social experience. The behavior shown in a social situation affects personal and social adjustments. Poor foundations are the cause of poor personal and social adjustment. These established social foundations tend to persist.

Pattern of development

Early social behavior follows a predictable pattern. Variations in this pattern are due to health, emotion, and environment. It makes no sense, who attends to the baby first.

  • At six weeks, a social smile occurs
  • First one year, equilibrium state, friendly and easy to handle
  • The second year, disequilibrium, fuzzy, cooperative, and difficult to handle
  • Before babyhood is over, equilibrium is restored.

Beginnings of Interest in Play

  • For babies, play is very different from all others.
  • First, no rules and regulations, free and spontaneous play
  • No preparation to play or restriction.
  • Throughout babyhood, the baby is often solitary than social.
  • Babies play in their own way, without looking at what others doing, snatching toys from another baby. There is little or no social give or take.
  • Play is dependent on physical, motor, and intellectual development, the kind of development in these areas. As patterns unfold, play becomes more varied and complex.
  • Babies can play with anything, no toys are needed. An object that stimulates curiosity is enough. At first, during play, there will be many repetitions and little variation.

Play development follows a pattern

Play is influenced by a baby’s physical, motor, and mental development. The Patten of development is predictable so is the play.

  • At six months, they play with one object
  • At nine months, they play with two separate object
  • At two years they pretend to play

Values of play in babyhood

  • Play is for pleasure
  • Bruner said play provides opportunities for problem solving and creativity, without play it is not possible.
  • Through exploration, babies learn everything.
  • Play improves socialization, unknowingly
  • Encouragement to do creative things provides a way to future creative kinds of stuff.

Development of Understanding

Begin with no comprehension meaning of things, they come in contact with their environment

  • They must understand and acquire through maturation and learning
  • Association of meaning with objects, people, and situation
  • Development is rapid
  • Look for familiarity
  • Conditioning is easy
  • Sensory exploration and motor manipulation
  • When 2 years old, they make generalizations, so it is difficult for babies to distinguish between living and inanimate objects

Beginning of Morality

  • No scale of values and conscience
  • Not guided by moral standards
  • Pleasure – rightness, unpleasure wrongness
  • No guilt for doing wrong
  • Whatever i take is mine – this extends till 7 to 8 years of age
  • First external control and then an internal control
  • When someone encourages and others discourage the child gets confused

Family relationship

  • Sex role typing – begins literally at birth
  • Boy – independence is appropriate and inappropriate for girls
  • Stereotypical thoughts occur as a result

Evidence of the importance of the parent-child relationship

Emotional deprivation – become a quiet, listless, and unresponsive smile

Attachment behavior – close, warm, satisfying relationship

First 9 to 12 months – mother – secure attachment

Hazards of Babyhood

  • Foundational age
  • Crying leads to gastrointestinal disturbances, regurgitation of food, night walking, general nervous tension
  • Excessive crying – the feeling of insecurity that affects personality

Physical Hazard

  • Prematurity
  • Brain damage
  • Birth defects
  • Poor physical conditions

  • During first three months of babyhood

2/3rd of the death during the first year and mainly during first month

  • Serious illness – 1st year
  • By accidents – 2 nd year

Higher death rates in boys

Crib death

  • The sudden and unexpected death
  • Usually, it occurs after a long period of sleep
  • Abnormality in breathing
  • Who had oxygen therapy
  • Occurs in 1st year of babyhood than the second year more during the first six months
  • Boys and babies from lower economic status


  • Gastrointestinal and respiratory complications
  • Cold  and ear infections


  • Permanent scars – psychological scars


  •  Inadequate food, imbalance diet
  • Brain development is impaired by malnutrition

Foundation of obesity

  • Due to chubby looks fat cells are established early

Physiological hazards

Eating habits – sucking thumbs occurs when breastfeeding stopped

Resistant to new food due to different texture can takes place

Sleeping habits – crying, noise, inappropriate sleep wake tension

Elimination habits – cannot be established 

Psychological hazards

  • Failure to master the developmental tasks
  • Master in babyhood leads to master in childhood

Motor development 

 Frustrated and become handicap cause low level of intelligence and lack of stimulation


Emotional hazard

Social hazard

Play hazard



Family relationship

Personality development 


Poor health


Desire for independence

Increased need of attention

Reference, from HURLOCK B. Z – Developmental Psychology., A life span development

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