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Social Sci LibreTexts

3: Infancy and Toddlerhood

  • Page ID
  • Learning Objectives: Physical Development in Infancy and Toddlerhood

    • Summarze overall physical growth during infancy
    • Describe the growth of the brain during infancy
    • Explain infant sleep
    • Identify newborn reflexes
    • Compare gross and fine motor skills
    • Contrast development of the senses in newborns
    • Describe the habituation procedure
    • Explain the merits of breastfeeding and when to introduce more solid foods
    • Discuss the nutritional concerns of marasmus and kwashiorkor

    We will now turn our attention to the physical, cognitive, and socioemotional development during the first two years. Researchers have given this part of the lifespan more attention than any other period, perhaps because changes during this time are so dramatic and so noticeable. We have also assumed that what happens during these years provides a foundation for one’s life to come. However, it has been argued that the significance of development during these years has been overstated (Bruer, 1999).

    • 3.1: Physical Development in Infancy and Toddlerhood
      The average newborn in the United States weighs about 7.5 pounds (between 5 and 10 pounds) and is about 20 inches in length. For the first few days of life, infants typically lose about 5 percent of their body weight as they eliminate waste and get used to feeding. This often goes unnoticed by most parents, but can be cause for concern for those who have a smaller infant. This weight loss is temporary, however, and is followed by a rapid period of growth.
    • 3.2: Infant Sleep
      A newborn typically sleeps approximately 16.5 hours per 24-hour period. This is usually polyphasic sleep in that the infant is accumulating the 16.5 hours over several sleep periods throughout the day. The infant is averaging 15 hours per 24-hour period by one month, and 14 hours by 6 months. By the time children turn two, they are averaging closer to 10 hours per 24 hours. Additionally, the average newborn will spend close to 50% of the sleep time in the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) phase.
    • 3.3: From Reflexes to Voluntary Movements
      Newborns are equipped with a number of reflexes which are involuntary movements in response to stimulation. Some of the more common reflexes, such as the sucking reflex and rooting reflex, are important to feeding. The grasping and stepping reflexes are eventually replaced by more voluntary behaviors. Within the first few months of life these reflexes disappear, while other reflexes, such as the eye-blink, swallowing, sneezing, gagging, and withdrawal reflex stay with us as they continue to serv
    • 3.4: Sensory Capabilities
      Throughout much of history, the newborn was considered a passive, disorganized being who possessed minimal abilities. William James, an early psychologist, had described the newborn’s world as “a blooming, buzzing confusion,” (Shaffer, 1985). However, current research techniques have demonstrated just how developed the newborn is with especially organized sensory and perceptual abilities.
    • 3.5: Nutrition
      Breast milk is considered the ideal diet for newborns. Colostrum, the first breast milk produced during pregnancy and just after birth has been described as “liquid gold”. It is very rich in nutrients and antibodies. Breast milk changes by the third to fifth day after birth, becoming much thinner, but containing just the right amount of fat, sugar, water and proteins to support overall physical and neurological development. For most babies, breast milk is also easier to digest than formula.
    • 3.6: Piaget and the Sensorimotor Stage
      Piaget believed that we are continuously trying to maintain cognitive equilibrium, or a balance, in what we see and what we know. Children have much more of a challenge in maintaining this balance because they are constantly being confronted with new situations, new words, new objects, etc. All this new information needs to be organized, and a framework for organizing information is referred to as a Schema. Children develop schemata through the processes of assimilation and accommodation.
    • 3.7: Infant Memory
      lder children and adults experience infantile amnesia, the inability to recall memories from the first few years of life. Several hypotheses have been proposed for this amnesia. From the biological perspective, it has been suggested that infantile amnesia is due to the immaturity of the infant brain, especially those areas that are crucial to the formation of autobiographical memory, such as the hippocampus.
    • 3.8: Language
      Our vast intelligence also allows us to have Language, a system of communication that uses symbols in a regular way to create meaning. Language gives us the ability to communicate our intelligence to others by talking, reading, and writing. Although other species have at least some ability to communicate, none of them have language. There are many components of language that will now be reviewed.
    • 3.9: Psychosociological Development in Infancy and Toddlerhood
      You may have noticed that some infants seemed to be in a better mood than others and that some were more sensitive to noise or more easily distracted than others. These differences may be attributed to temperament. Temperament is the innate characteristics of the infant, including mood, activity level, and emotional reactivity, noticeable soon after birth.
    • 3.10: Forming Attachments
      Attachment is the close bond with a caregiver from which the infant derives a sense of security. The formation of attachments in infancy has been the subject of considerable research as attachments have been viewed as foundations for future relationships. Additionally, attachments form the basis for confidence and curiosity as toddlers, and as important influences on self- concept.
    • 3.11: Erikson - Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt
      As the child begins to walk and talk, an interest in independence or autonomy replaces a concern for trust. The toddler tests the limits of what can be touched, said, and explored. Erikson (1982) believed that toddlers should be allowed to explore their environment as freely as safety allows and in so doing will develop a sense of independence that will later grow to self-esteem, initiative, and overall confidence.
    • 3.12: Measuring Infant Development
      The Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development, Third Edition (Bayley-III) comprehensively assess children within the age range of 1 to 42 months (Pearson Education, 2016). Children are evaluated in five key developmental domains, including cognition, language, social-emotional, motor, and adaptive behavior. By identifying developmental delays in the very young, the Bayley Scales can highlight which early intervention techniques might be most beneficial.
    • 3.13: Conclusion
      We have explored the dramatic story of the first two years of life. Rapid physical growth, neurological development, language acquisition, the movement from hands on to mental learning, an expanding emotional repertoire, and the initial conceptions of self and others make this period of life very exciting. These abilities are shaped into more sophisticated mental processes, self-concepts, and social relationships during the years of early childhood.
    • 3.R: Infancy and Toddlerhood (References)