Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Child Development: The First Year

While the first three to five years of a child's life are a pivotal part of development, children are constantly growing in many ways. The next several entries in Child Therapy Chicago will highlight some of the major aspects of child development, from birth through adolescence, in the following areas: physical/motor skills, language/cognition, and socialization/sense of self.

The First Year
This is the stage of Trust versus Mistrust, according to Erikson. Children need consistent and frequent contact with a primary caregiver. Having their needs met helps establish a sense of trust, which contributes to overall development.

Physical/Motor Skills:
  • Infants have a preference for faces
  • Gross motor skills are developing - infants are able to hold their head erect, sit, then roll, crawl, and begin to stand and possibly walk alone
  • Infants begin to understand and imitate words and sounds
  • Infants respond to people and objects
  • By the end of the first year, infants are exploring and experimenting with their environment
Socialization/Sense of Self:
  • Non-verbal means of connection and interaction predominate - smiling, grasping, sucking, and visual tracking are observed
  • Parents/caregivers are the infant's primary relationship and the infant will seek to engage them in some play
  • Crying is an expression of distress and an indicator that something is needed; when the needs are consistently met, trust begins to be established and attachments form
  • Early on, infants are unable to distinguish themselves as distinct/separate from their parents/caregivers; by about 12 months, there is  movement from a sense of oneness to separateness
Given the developmental milestones of the first year of life, it makes sense that the parent/child relationship is an integral part of an infant's growth. It is through parent/child interactions that infants begin to develop physically, cognitively and socially/emotionally, needs are met, and trust is established.

Next time -- Years One to Three: Autonomy versus Shame/Doubt.

Source: Growth and Developmental Tasks (author unknown)