Preparation for Child Psych PRITE and Boards
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This article covers important concepts in early social development and attachment. Early cognitive development is addressed here as well. For development of a school-age child and adolescents see corresponding articles. Brain and CNS maturation is addressed in a dedicated article as well.

Important concepts

Genes, the environment, and the interaction of these two forces each play a large role in cognitive development. This transactional model of child development, is the prevailing paradigm, stressing the dynamic interplay between individual- (genes, experience) and contextual-level (aspects of environment, culture) factors. (Lewis text)

  • Behavioral inhibition refers to one’s initial negative emotional and motor reaction to novelty; toddlers may be vigilant and demonstrate withdrawn behavior in response to novel people and situations (Calkins SD Child Development, 1996 pp 523–540). It is considered to be a stable temperamental characteristic in childhood; children that demonstrate BI are at higher risk for anxiety disorders.

5 stages of Infant/Toddler development

1 - Prenatal period

History of exposures to illness or toxins during pregnancy, complications at delivery, as well as family's attitude towards pregnancy and family will affect the infant's psychosocial development.

2 - Infant 0-2 mo

  • Infants at this stage are able to track moving objects.
  • Social smile (imitating caregiver's smile) develops at 6-8weeks.

3 - Infant 3-7 mo

  • The stage is characterized by increasing social reciprocity.
  • Separation anxiety emerges at 6-8mo, peaks at about 14 to 18 months and subsequently declines.
  • Object permanence is developed in the second half of this stage. Infants at 7-8mo old will reach in a box if they saw a toy being placed there. Eventually, this allows mental representations of people and objects, and a subsequent distinction between parents and strangers. Stranger anxiety appears at about 8 months, peaks at about 24 months, and steadily declines thereafter.

4 - Toddler 7-18 mo

  • Object permanence develops further in 2nd year of life; a toddler, who is accustomed to a toy being hidden in box A, and witnessed it being moved to box B, will be able to look there and not perseverate on box A (i.e. will not commit an A-not-B error); prior to 12mo infants generally commit A-not-B error (will continue to look in box A)
  • A sense of intersubjectivity (the understanding that one's thought, feelings, gestures, and sounds can be understood by others) is first to develop, leading to communicative gesturing.
  • At around 12 mo, trial-and-error problem solving begins to replace conditioned response learning.

5 - Toddler 18-36 mo

  • With growing language skills symbolic representation solidifies around 18 mo and leads to symbolic play. (allowing one object to stand for another: doll represents a baby)
    • Symbolic conceptions provide toddlers with the capacity to form explicit memories.