Psychological Development of Babies

Babies undergo tremendous growth and changes both physically and psychologically at a rapid pace. However, no two infants will develop at the same exact pace. Each infant has an individual temperament, needs and growth patterns.

While some general developmental stages and milestones can be stated, it's important not to expect each child to reach them at a precise time. However, knowing a general timetable can be helpful for parents and care providers.

  1. Function

    • In the earliest newborn stages of psychological development, much of what infants show is based on reflexes that they were born with. As they develop and mature more, the reflexes disappear and genuine intentional action and thinking processes can be observed.

      As infants grow and develop, they develop more pathways between the nerve cells in their brains and between their brains and bodies. The more interaction between infant and environment, the more pathways are built.


    • An infant's psychological development is essentially the cognitive development. Cognitive development encompasses learning, reasoning and understanding. Infants use their emotional, language, motor, social and perceptual experiences for cognitive development.

      Infants are actively engaged learners, with natural curiosity and an inborn need to learn through explorations. When parents and caregivers respond to an infant's need to explore and learn it fosters the baby's psychological development.


    • Some types of psychological development in infants include cause and effect learning, such as when an infant learns that when they have a need and they cry, they receive nourishment or comfort.

      Another type is understanding spatial relationships, such as what happens when they drop or move objects, or how objects fit together. When an infant learns how to reach a toy, or chew on her fingers she develops problem solving skills, another aspect of psychological development. Even newborns mimic behavior, and that aids their psychological development particularly in communication.

    Time Frame

    • Newborns' psychological development includes an understanding of themselves as part of others. They have not yet developed an individual sense of self. They see everything and one as part of themselves. However, gradually an infant will grow to understand that she is separate from others, but not in a complete overall way until later childhood.

      Until an infant is several months old, the child will believe that when something or someone is out of their line of sight, the person or object disappears. But near the first birthday an infant will realize that an object remains in existence even when unseen.


    • One of the most crucial aspects of psychological development of infants is bonding and trust. Responding promptly to an infant's needs builds trust in infants which builds confidence in the child and bolsters their natural drive to explore. Infants who don't get consistent comfort when in need have difficulty with trust and their psychological development is affected negatively.

      Infants who do not receive enough attention from parents and caregivers can develop a serious problem known as failure to thrive. This condition can affect a child more than psychologically, as it can interfere with physical growth and feeding as well.

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