how can we nurture, support, and enhance infant’s social-emotional development from the first twelve months?

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Today I would like to introduce one of the most essential topics concerning raising healthy, happy children. Today I will talk about social-emotional development during the first year of life in the context of American culture.

According to Halberstadt & Lozada (2011), culture decides what kind of environment in which infants develop socially and emotionally. It also has an indirect effect on children through parents’ viewpoints and beliefs about socialization. No matter how much our life changes, parents are still the cornerstone in scaffolding emotional behavior in infants and toddlers (Halberstadt & Lozada, 2011). Surprisingly, infants can show their emotions and respond to other people’s facial expressions very early in life
(Lewis et al., 2010). For example, they cry to express pain, loneliness or their feeling of hunger. They also pay attention to sounds, people, objects, and they can show feelings of happiness and joy (Lewis et al., 2010).

So, how can we nurture, support, and enhance infant’s social-emotional development from the first twelve months?

  1. Effective prenatal and postnatal services are essential to optimize infants’ overall health and social-emotional development (Hurt, Paranjothy, Lucas, Watson, Mann, Griffiths & Lingam, 2018). In this regard, the physical and psychological health of both the mother and her baby during pregnancy and after delivery should be a high priority.
  2. Babies at birth can feel interest, distress, disgust, and happiness; they also can express their feelings through facial expressions and crying (Ullman & Ryan, 2010). As a result, it is imperative that parents are able to decipher their babies’ expressions and respond quickly.
  3. Being responsive parents plays a crucial role in making a strong bond with the baby, so the basis of attachment is formed (Ullman & Ryan, 2010). At 3 months of age, babies start to socially communicate with their caregivers by social smiles. Smiling back at them strengthens the bond and help them feel secure and desired (Hurt, Paranjothy et al., 2018).
  4. Social interactions with babies also include singing to them, spending one-on-one time with them, mimicking their cooing and facial expressions, playing simple games, such as peek-a-boo to stimulate their spontaneous laughter. Such interactions are believed to enhance bonding between parents and their babies and teach babies about the emotional cues of others. (Hurt, Paranjothy et al., 2018).
  5. Sleep patterns are proven to affect social-emotional development. Later bedtimes and less sleep than needed is linked to a number of social-emotional issues, such as internalization in infants and toddlers (Mindell, Leichman, DuMond & Sadeh, 2017). As a result, keeping a fixed timing for bedtime should enhance babies’ social-emotional well-being.
  6. Last but not least, fathers’ involvement in caring for their babies has an indirect effect on the infants’ social-emotional well-being. When fathers take part in raising babies, the mothers feel supported and less stressed, which reflects positively on her psychological health, which is important for the social competence of her infants (Mindell et al., 2017).


Ullman, T., & Ryan, K. O. (Producers). (2010). Infants: Social and Emotional Development [Video file]. Learning Seed. Retrieved from Academic Video Online: Premium database.

Hurt, L., Paranjothy, S., Lucas, P. J., Watson, D., Mann, M., Griffiths, L. J., … & Lingam, R. (2018). Interventions that enhance health services for parents and infants to improve child development and social and emotional well-being in high-income countries: a systematic review. BMJ open, 8(2), e014899.

Mindell, J. A., Leichman, E. S., DuMond, C., & Sadeh, A. (2017). Sleep and social-emotional development in infants and toddlers. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 46(2), 236-246.

Halberstadt, A. G., & Lozada, F. T. (2011). Emotion development in infancy through the lens of culture. Emotion Review, 3(2), 158–168.

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