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Emotional and Social Development, Ages 1 to 12 Months

Topic Overview

Emotional and social growth during the first year of life can be both fascinating and exciting. As babies bond with their parents and caregivers, their interactions become more personal and engaging.

Although your baby is unique and will exhibit his or her own personality, most babies grow emotionally and socially in certain predictable patterns.

  • At 1 month of age, infants express their feelings with alert, widened eyes and a rounded mouth. The bond grows between parents and their baby during this stage.
  • Around 2 months of age, your baby will have a "social" smile. That is a smile made with purpose as a way to engage others. Around this same time to about 4 months of age, babies develop an attachment to their caregivers. They more readily stop crying for familiar caregivers than for strangers. They draw people to them by making and keeping eye contact, moving their arms, and smiling.
  • By about 4 to 6 months of age, babies become increasingly social and love to cuddle and laugh. They become expressive and may "flirt" with their doctor or people across a room. Facial expressions now consistently reflect anger, joy, interest, fear, disgust, or surprise.
  • During the period between 6 and 9 months of age, babies who are cared for in a loving and consistent way develop a powerful bond with their parents and other significant people in their lives. As this bond strengthens, babies learn to trust caregivers. They develop a memory and a marked preference for loved ones and begin to recognize others as strangers. Babies miss their regular caregivers when they are away and often cry, turn away, or otherwise react strongly, a behavior called separation protest. Your baby may demonstrate fear and uneasiness around people he or she does not know, a behavior called stranger anxiety.
  • Stranger anxiety and separation protest typically continue but gradually lessen between 9 and 12 months of age. Your baby has developed a clear preference for special people and will show affection to them. With the increased mobility that crawling allows, babies who are secure in their attachment to their caregivers become more interested in exploring the world around them.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Susan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics
Specialist Medical Reviewer Louis Pellegrino, MD - Developmental Pediatrics
Last Revised October 7, 2011

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