Newborn Social and Emotional Development

Susie McGee
newborn social and emotional development

Newborn social and emotional development will begin as soon as your infant is born.

Bonding Begins in the Womb

The bond between a newborn and his parents is actually believed to begin even before he enters into the world. A baby's hearing is developed within the womb. He can hear sounds in the world around him, although they may be muted. This is why many people feel that an infant already knows the sound of his mother and even his father. He may be immediately soothed by these people because the sound of their voice is familiar and comforting.

About Newborn Social and Emotional Development

Newborn social and emotional development involves learning to relate to others and learning to express feelings. What types of feelings can a newborn express? Think about it. Newborns can actually show anxiety, fear, mistrust, happiness, and even humor. In fact, parents learn very quickly what their babies are feeling by watching their behavior. No words are needed. A baby's cries can be deciphered to mean hunger, pain, or discomfort. His smiles can show his approval and pleasure in the world around him. These feelings are what help him develop emotionally, and they teach him how to socially deal with others who are in his world.

Parenting Roles

How involved are parents in newborn social and emotional development? They actually have the most important role, along with any other caregivers in a baby's life. These are the people who hopefully instill feelings of trust and love in an infant. When an infant's basic needs are taken care of, he learns to trust those around him. The love and nurturing that he is given will help to develop his own sense of self-esteem.

Unfortunately, there are some babies who aren't nurtured and loved. These children may grow up with feelings of self-doubt. Those babies who are neglected and/or rejected may have difficulty establishing and maintaining emotional connections to others around them. Their social skills may be severely lacking even as adults.

Once Size Does Not Fit All

You've witnessed families in which all of the children were seemingly raised in the same manner, but they turned out very differently. While parents do play an important role in the social and emotional development of their child, babies also react in different ways to their environment.

Each child is born with an individual temperament. Some children seem to be naturally more easygoing than others, preferring to more passively respond to the stimuli around them. Others may react in a more emotional and/or volatile manner. Some infants cry easily, and they can be difficult to soothe. Others cry only when their basic needs must be met.

Attachment Issues

Most babies face attachment issues at some point during their young lives. For some, panic sets in as soon as mommy or daddy walks out of the room. For others, the transition from home and parents to a daycare situation can be traumatic. Again, these are learning experiences for a baby. As she deals with changes in her life, no matter how large or small, she is developing emotionally.

During these sometimes difficult times, parents need to be loving and supportive, without adding extra emotions to the situation. For example, if you have to leave your baby at a daycare center, recognize that she may be upset, but don't add to the emotional upheaval by becoming visibly upset in her presence as well. It is your job to provide a calm and comforting example.

Stages to Note

As your infant grows and develops emotionally and socially, you'll notice a variety of changes in her behavior. The following is a general list of what you can expect, although each child will develop at his or her own pace.

Newborn to Four Months

  • Cries as a means of communicating
  • Language consists of babbling and cooing
  • Responds to cuddling and kisses
  • Smiles as a reflex at first, but by two months will smile in response

Four to Eight Months

  • Expresses fear during certain situations
  • Loves to observe the world around her
  • Recognizes her name
  • Expresses delight easily with smiles and laughs
  • Loves to be played with and touched
  • Recognizes family members
  • Wants others to interact with her
  • May show separation anxiety

Eight to Twelve Months

  • Loves to look at himself in a mirror
  • Becomes a copycat of those around him
  • Doesn't want to relate to strangers
  • May become attached to a favorite toy or object
  • Experiences separation anxiety

If you feel that your baby isn't developing emotionally or socially, discuss your fears with your pediatrician.

Newborn Social and Emotional Development