If you have a baby, are having one soon, plan to have one, or care about someone who has one or is having one–At the outset–Second only to the baby’s physical health and well- being– The main questions to ask are: What is this baby thinking? Will he or she understand me? And, what can this little one do, besides cry, eat, and poop at birth?
Surprisingly, the answers to these natural questions have been studied publically—openly and ethically as well as rationally and scientifically only since about the 1950’s!
Due to the mass media and the greater sureness of infants actually surviving past the ravages of early childhood illness, research and theories of early infancy existed in the 1800’s, but were not public beyond academic and/or medical settings.
A Mother of two toddlers: a 3-yr-old and a 2-yr-old, I cannot and will not forget that I spent the majority of my adulthood studying early childhood and infant development (BS, MA, PhD, etc..). In sum, I think we need a better understanding of the social existence and early psychological life of our youngest citizens. Why? Because they are much more likely to: 1) live to be adults compared with 100 years ago, and 2) change our world and theirs forever by simply being born.
Right from birth, babies have a lot of abilities despite the prevailing myths. In particular, they can see colors and perceive depth. They can discriminate borders of objects, especially of faces. In fact, areas and even specific brain cells have been found to be instrumental in face perception. One-month-old babies can recognize caregivers’ voices, familiar music and familiar bedtime stories. They can also coordinate many simple movements including imitation of some basic facial expressions all before 2 months of age.
That may all sound amazing, but when do they really become social beings able to express their personalities – that is, interact with us in a social-emotive way such that we are pretty sure that they are responding to us as social beings do? And, how if ever, can well tell?
The answer lies in the major milestones of social development that occur from 5- to 9-months-of age. Beginning with the sophistication of adaptive early sucking, social smiling typically during the second month of life, and then gestural communication and early social games that babies play, testing the predictability of caregivers. Then later, social reponses, initiations, and reactions at 5-months that dramatically change throughout the first year of life.