Child development First year of life Essay

0 Comment


Emerging research has proven numerous things about child development but the most amazing are the things discovered about children’s first year of life. Recent researchers have begun to be a little more keen in the notion that what a child experiences during infancy and in the first year of life may have a huge impact on their development. Although research may not be conclusive, it’s empirical that there is a link between the first year of life and the eventual maturity level that a child gets to.


1.1.          Introduction:

According to Karpov Vygotsky (2005) the development stages of life in humans are totally different from those of animals. While animals work with tangible tools, humans work with intangible tools such as “language, concepts, signs, and symbols” (p. 18). The first year of life is one of the key stages in the human development stages. The pace of development and the nature of changes that occur during the first year of life make the stage notably sensitive to keen focus and in-depth research. As Eccles et al (1993, p. 1) reveal “few developmental periods are characterized by so many changes at so many different levels” like the first year of life.

1.2.         First Year of Life:

Child development, especially in the initial months after birth, is the neo-formations of infancy. There are various phases of child development that utterly define a child’s development during infancy. Attachment to parents or caregivers is a child’s way of coping with the learning stages as they fight to learn their environment.

1.2.1.   Roots of Attachment:

During infancy, all children feel helpless and unable to satisfy their crucial physiological needs. As Karpov (2005, p. 77) reveals, “human babies are born with only a few reflexes serving survival purposes, which, to make it worse, are not fully developed.” Due to this helplessness and dependency, the needs of infants in their first year of life cannot be satisfied in any other way other than that of their adult caregivers. This on the other hand prompts the dependency that infants are bound to have on adults, parents or their caregivers. In order to gain or attain a response from a caregiver, infants are born with reflexes that enable them to express their “innate behaviors (such as crying, smiling and following)” (Karpov, 2005, p. 79). Through some form of genetic inclinations, the caregiver whom the infant targets these innate behaviors to, respond by providing the care and attention the infant desires. It’s then through this cycle of care demand and supply that the infant gets attached to the caregiver and eventually discriminates other adults.

The first year of a child’s development is the most crucial and critical in that it’s the time that a child acclimatizes himself/herself to the people around them and learns to differentiate between those to be close to and those not to be close to. In most instances, as neo-Vygotskian believe, child development and attachment to caregivers is socially ordered.  The social environment of a child is far more influential to the developing child than any form of upbringing. Every neo-Vygotskian believes that, “the roots of attachment should be sought in the history of early interactions of infants with primary caregivers” (Karpov, 2005, p. 80). Children’s caregivers also use the situations of providing physiological gratification to engage in the emotional interaction with the children that in turn make the children to be attached to them.

1.2.2.   Child Development Stages

Child development is detailed by various stages of development that children undergo from their first month to the twelfth month. The initial first and second stages mark a child growth and attachment development that is mainly founded on the need for physiological gratification. As the caregiver meets the child’s physiological needs, the child then begins to develop some positive attachment to the caregiver. According to Karpov (2005, p. 83), the third stage is marked between the ages of 2.5 months to 6 months. This is the time that a child begins to positively acknowledge the gratification and care that they are getting from the caregiver. Children begin to smile at their caregivers – a smile that is now commonly known as the social smile. This “social smile, however, is just one of the components of a complex and intensive positive emotional reaction of infants to caregivers” (Karpov, 2005, p. 83).

As the infant grows and draws near to the sixth month, they begin to develop closer ties to their primary caregivers, and become more and more inclined to react differently to strangers. In some instances, they may begin to cry when approached or carried by “strangers” or anyone not as close as the primary caregivers. This then means that the child’s close ties to the primary caregiver are developing. In their forth stage, usually between the ages of 6 months to twelve months, the emotional interactions between the child and the caregiver become more and more defined. During the first year of n infant’s life they quickly move all the way through several phases of development. The infant’s development of communication as well as interaction is over and over again the largely thrilling. As an infant, the child will mainly communicate through impulsive and spontaneous cries to signify hunger, tiredness or discomfort. In the first 12 months, this communication then advances and transforms into a receptive deliberate application of initial words such as ‘mamma’ or ‘daddy’.

Although in the initial stages of development a child may have an inclination for emotional interactions with their caregivers, as they grow, the caregivers initiate toys as interaction tools. The child may then begin to shift their attention from the emotional attachment they may have with the caregiver and to the ‘objects’ they are being introduced to. In the second phase of their first year, children begin to center their attention to the objects they are being introduced to. In this stage, the child and caregiver’s relations can be termed as being joint-effort in the development of the child’s interest in the objects of attention like toys. Karpov (2005, p. 86) observes that, “the establishment of this new role of caregivers in infants’ lives is prepared by both infants’ attachment to caregivers and caregivers’ efforts aimed at the change of meaning of their interactions with infants from emotional to object-centered.”

As the child develops from the first half of their first year of life to the second half, their communication with the caregivers ought to change. As the infant grows and becomes more and more object-centered, they tend to find new ways to communicate. Children, evidently, as much as grown ups have a take in their individual development. Children also shape the behavior of their caregivers as much as their caregivers shape their behavior and development. Caregivers treat different children differently depending on a child’s level of activity, their individual attention span, their moods and intensity as well as how they react to original motivation and stimuli. These are the temperaments of each child that majority of researchers believe remain constant throughout a child’s development span. There are many things that affect a child; each child’s attachment style, the way others treat them as well as their temperament are key factors that affect the behavior of children.

Separation from a caregiver is a child’s most dreadful moment. Majority of children may go through what most researchers call the separation anxiety when they see a loved one departing. Infants also express their cognitive development by the way they react to a caregiver’s departure; they may cry, follow the caregiver or start calling out to the caregiver so as to stop them from leaving. This is what researchers deem to be the survival instincts of infants in their first year of life. A young child’s inborn readiness to learn is evident in so many ways that researchers have always tried to discover. “Whereas reacting joyfully towards primary caregivers, infants start to react more neutrally and sometimes even negatively (with crying) to strangers” (Karpov, 2005, p. 85). In some instances a child may be seen discriminating between a caregiver’s voice and that of a stranger. In the second half of the first year, children can discriminate between faces of caregivers and those that are strangers. This means that children can clearly differentiate between the familiar voices that they may have heard in the later stage of pregnancy or soon after birth.

1.2.3.   Theories of Child Development:

The attachment theory coined by one psychiatrist, John Bowlby and a psychologist, Mary Ainsworth in the 1950s reveals that a child’s development is based on the attachment or emotional bond shared with the primary caregiver.  Karpov (2005, p. 83) reveals that “infants’ interest in emotional interactions with caregivers may be even stronger than their physiological needs.” This may be proven by the numerous instances that a mother watches their infant baby stop suckling for a moment and just smiles at the mother.

1.2.4.   The shift from emotional interactions o object-centred activities

For infants in the age of six to twelve months, there are various changes that occur in their development that lead them to shift from emotional interactions of smiling at the caregivers to focus on the objects that they are introduced to by the caregivers. In this time a child’s connection to the caregiver may be centred on the objects that the caregiver shares with the child. Such objects may be toys and in this stage the activity of interaction shifts to “infant-caregiver joint object-centred activity” (Karpov, 2005, p. 85).

As the first year of life approaches its end, there is a major shift in an infant’s attachment to the caregiver. In some instances, a child may be seen as inclining themselves to objects than the attention from caregivers. As the child develops and becomes more and more inclined to the objects, the role of the caregiver is redefined in the child’s life. “Rather than continuing to play the role of infants’ partners in emotional interactions, caregivers, by the end of the first year, come to serve the role of mediators of infants’ object-centered activity” (Karpov, 2005, p. 86). It is believed that, the attachment between a caregiver and the child is crucial in the formation of a child’s personality. As the caregivers interact in a nurturing manner with the infant, the child moulds their personality and behaviors around the caregivers’ behaviors.

1.2.5.   Object-centred activity

In this phase of a child’s first year of life, the child is bound to be more and more inclined to the objects that the caregiver is bound to continually introduce them to. In this phase instead of the caregiver concentrating on the emotional attachment of fondling, massaging and smiling at the child, they begin to give objects such as toys to the child. The child then begins to get more and more attached to the object. As the caregiver uses this opportunity to ensure that the child feels close to them, the child uses the opportunity to learn new things. Its is noteworthy that as children learn to appreciate objects and become more and more object-centred, their “positive emotional attitude towards caregivers, rather than originating their interest in objects within the external environment, makes it possible for their “innate curiosity” to unfold successfully” (Karpov, 2005, p. 91). Can this then be taken to mean that the caregiver is the mediator of the infants’ innate curiosity towards being object-centered?

1.2.6.   The caregiver as mediator in object-centred activities

From the research that has been done so far, its clear that the relations between an infant and the caregiver can determine just how much a child would be interested in an object or not. From the research done by Sroufe (1983, p. 19), its predictive that “quality of attachment in infancy predicted both the quality of maternal support, as well as enthusiasm, persistence, compliance, and other aspects of toddler behaviour.”

Once a child develops a positive image or view of the caregiver then it means that they would trust the caregivers’ introduction of objects to their lives. Caregivers on the other hand do not realize that as they give the children objects whether for play or consolation, they are introducing the children to the phase of object-centeredness. As the infant tries to grasp at the object then the caregiver keeps holding the object towards the child to make them exercise the art of grasping. This is what can be termed as the joint object-centred activity. Repetition of such actions then means that the child begins to stretch to grasp the object as the caregiver pretends to take the object away. “This new role of caregivers becomes especially important by the age of 11 or 12 months, when infants start imitating caregivers’ actions with objects and toys in accordance with their social meanings (Karpov, 2005, p. 93).

Research carried out by Sroufe (1983) reveals that those infants with secure attachments to their caregivers never showed any signs of wanting to victimize or being victimized by other play partners. As infants mature there sense of communication becomes more and more advanced. By six months of age, the infant is able to delightedly yelp in delight as soon as he/she sees the caregiver. The infant becomes increasingly responsive to their caregivers when they recognize them and they do this by the smiles they exhibit, movement of their arms or the vocalizations they make to the caregivers or familiar people talking to them. As the infant moves on to the next development phase of 9 months, they are able to show vocalized protest as well as facial expressions whenever an object is taken from them or whenever a caregiver moves away.

This means that the infant is developing a new perspective towards life and their dependence is becoming more focused on their survival. The infant may fight to sit up where in this position they would be able to be more in control of their toys and objects. This then enhances exploration and independence. By the time an infant gets to the 12month mark, they are able to communicate using a combination of some words and facial expressions as well as gestures. A good example may be when an infant sees a bird or object, points to the object and calls out ‘mama’, they clap their hands of bang objects to draw the caregiver’s attention. In most cases, however, this development may be hampered by the security of attachment as well as their caregivers’ psychological characteristics.

Commentary and Opinions

Child development is the most intriguing aspects of research that is both interesting to read about and to observe. In case where a researcher has access to young children that can be studied, the analysis of the child’s or children’s development is the most intriguing of all research processes. The first year of life can be the most interesting and intriguing for both the caregiver and the child as the child begins to explore their world around them. From smiles to vocalization an infant can reveal the most intimate of communications to their caregivers whilst on the other hand they reveal their reservations for strangers and those not too close to them.

During the initial stages of development, research reveals that a child or infant will try to enhance their emotional interactions with the caregiver as much as the caregiver would be interacting with the child. As the caregiver starts to shift to sharing of objects with the baby, then the relations seemingly change and become object-centred. This means that the mother or caregiver may be trying to introduce objects such as toys for the child to play with. However, the caregiver may not notice that the objects they are introducing the child to may be the centre of attention for the child in the coming days. In most instances, the objects such as toys would ideally become the focus of the infant as they grow into six months and above.

Child development case study situation:

In this hypothetical case study, I take the name of a child called *Tiffany (not a real name) who is born to a mother who works and the child has to be left with a nanny at home during the day. In the first three months Tiffany will bond well with the mother. However, in the initial days of departure of the caregiver, the infant may resist being left alone with the nanny at home while not ‘knowing’ how long it may the caregiver to come back. As a way of self-reassurance, a child or infant may resort to focusing on objects such as toys when the parent is away, though this may be at a limited level. In many cases, the parent would be more and more inclined to cries and calling for the caregiver to provide attention. This yelps for attention from the caregiver may be for a time during the initial days of the caregiver’s departure.

Once Tiffany realizes that the caregiver may be leaving at specific times and getting back, then they may either adjust to those timings or resolve to be less and less inclined to the caregiver. A great example is when Tiffany yells in the mornings when the mother goes to work, and remains withdrawn from the nanny when alone with the nanny. Tiffany gives challenges with feeding during the day though once the mother gets back from work in the evening she seems jovial and ready to eat. This is a great example that shows that children have not only emotional attachments to their caregivers, but also caregivers or mothers have a bond with the child in their first year of life that cannot be broken.


Eccles, J. S., Midgley, C., Wigfield, A., Buchanan, C. M., Reuman, D., Flanagan, C., Iver, D.
M. (1993, February). Development during adolescence. The impact of stage-environment fit on young adolescents’ experiences in schools and in families. American Psychology, 48(2), 90-101.

Karpov, Yuriy V. (2005). The neo-Vygotskian approach to child development. New York:

Cambridge University Press.

Sroufe, L., A., (1983). Infant-caregiver attachment and patterns of adaptation in
preschool: The roots of maladaption and competence.  Minnesota Symposia on Child Psychology. IN: Belsky, J., T, Nezworski, and Nezworski, T., M., (1983). Clinical implications of attachment. Routledge.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *