Developmental Landmarks of Infancy
As with other stages of the life span, infancy has its own unique developmental tasks and landmarks that lay the foundation for current and future developmental progress. Many complex developmental changes and events are singular to this time of life. Many developmental events that occur in infancy are the product of maturational changes, such as changes in size, weight, and body proportions; changes in physiological structures and functions; and the development of particular physical skills, including walking and speaking. Other significant developmental events that occur in infancy are more psychological in nature and are more sensitive to environmental influences. These are important as well in influencing how the relationship between parents and children takes shape and becomes configured in particular ways unique to the individuals and their family system.
Healthy adjustment in infancy focuses on accomplishing the challenges of the developmental tasks and landmarks appropriate to this time of life. Traditionally, these lead from complete dependence and helplessness at birth to the ability to function independently of adults to a certain degree. For this development to take place, infants necessarily need to acquire a trusting attitude about their caregivers and their environment and establish initial personal boundaries that permit self-individuation.
Knowledge of developmental events that occur at each stage of a child’s life span is important to parents and other caregivers. All humans are born with a capacity for experiencing certain events that have been programmed to occur and for experiencing other events subject to modification by the environment in their impact. Infants are active participants in influencing their social environment and the responses of those who provide their care. As a result, parents and caregivers need to be aware of certain cues that a baby will provide to assist caregivers in their behavior. These cues are often a part of the developmental process, and to recognize them, caregivers need to observe a baby’s behavior and know what occurs appropriately at different times.
Although chronological age is a convenient indicator of events that may be expected as part of the normal developmental process, it should be considered primarily as a guide to landmarks that punctuate the different developmental stages of the life span. No particular child will fit the textbook definitions of age-appropriate characteristics perfectly. Nevertheless, the value of such norms lies in showing the organization and trends in development that are typical of human beings.
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