Social Development: Your Infant’s Social Skills
Birth to Two Months
A newborn infant will often quickly learn her mother’s voice and smell, and may react differently to a favorite parent or caregiver than to a stranger. This is the beginning of the infant social development process and enables the child to recognize the differences between other individuals. Also in the first two months, an infant begins to self-regulate – to tune out stimuli when she is overwhelmed, and to pay attention when something new and interesting appears.
Two to Four Months
In this time period, an infant may begin to interact more with his environment, including other people. He may reach for a familiar face, play more actively with a caregiver, and even “interact” with his own face in a mirror. This age is one of exploration, in which the infant is discovering that his actions can affect others, which is an important stage of social development.
Four to Six Months
At this stage, some infants begin to differentiate more strongly between a familiar caregiver and an unfamiliar individual. An infant will often begin to cooperate more readily during dressing, eating, or other activities. In addition, an infant may begin to mimic others’ facial expressions or actions, such as smiling at a smiling face, sticking out her tongue, or playing peek-a-boo.
Six to Nine Months
Stranger anxiety may peak at this stage, with the infant actively seeking to receive a caregiver’s attention constantly. The infant may cling to a familiar adult and hide his face when introduced to a stranger. Surprisingly, stranger anxiety is a positive sign of infant social development; you won’t be anxious around unfamiliar people unless you recognize the advantage of interacting with familiar people.
Nine to Twelve Months
At this age, infants begin to understand more clearly the connection between the caregiver and the fulfillment of her needs. When she is hurt or hungry, she may turn to her caregiver and fuss, hoping that the caregiver will respond. The infant may also begin to speak single words, although these first words may only be coherent to her primary caregivers.
Keep in mind that children follow their own developmental time line. While most follow the same path of infant social development, your child may not follow the exact pattern. While knowing what to expect can be helpful, the absence of certain behaviors as described above does not warrant cause for alarm. Instead, take the time to address with your pediatrician any concerns or questions that you might have.