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Emotional and Social Development, Ages 1 to 12 Months

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.

Your baby is unique and will exhibit his or her own personality. But 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. It's a smile made with purpose as a way to engage others. Around this same time to about 4 months of age, babies form an attachment to their caregivers. They more readily stop crying for familiar caregivers than for strangers. To draw people to them, they make and keep eye contact, move their arms, and smile.
  • By about 4 to 6 months of age, babies become more social. They 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.
  • Between 6 and 9 months of age, babies who are cared for in a loving and consistent way form 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. They start to recognize others as strangers. Your baby may show fear and uneasiness around people he or she doesn't know. This behavior is called stranger anxiety.
  • Around 9 to 12 months of age, most babies clearly prefer certain people and will show affection to them. Babies miss their regular caregivers when they are away and often cry, turn away, or otherwise react strongly. This behavior is called separation anxiety or separation protest. Crawling gives babies more mobility. And babies who are secure in their attachment to their caregivers become more interested in exploring the world around them.

Credits

Current as of: August 3, 2022

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
John Pope MD - Pediatrics
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Louis Pellegrino MD - Developmental Pediatrics