Skip to content

Health & Baby

Font Size

Emotional and Social Development, Ages 1 to 12 Months - Topic Overview

Emotional and social growth during the first year of life can be both fascinating and exciting. As babies bond with their parents and caregivers, their interactions become more personal and engaging.

Although your baby is unique and will exhibit his or her own personality, most babies grow emotionally and socially in certain predictable patterns.

  • At 1 month of age, infants express their feelings with alert, widened eyes and a rounded mouth. The bond grows between parents and their baby during this stage.
  • Around 2 months of age, your baby will have a "social" smile. That is a smile made with purpose as a way to engage others. Around this same time to about 4 months of age, babies develop an attachment to their caregivers. They more readily stop crying for familiar caregivers than for strangers. They draw people to them by making and keeping eye contact, moving their arms, and smiling.
  • By about 4 to 6 months of age, babies become increasingly social and love to cuddle and laugh. They become expressive and may "flirt" with their doctor or people across a room. Facial expressions now consistently reflect anger, joy, interest, fear, disgust, or surprise.
  • During the period between 6 and 9 months of age, babies who are cared for in a loving and consistent way develop a powerful bond with their parents and other significant people in their lives. As this bond strengthens, babies learn to trust caregivers. They develop a memory and a marked preference for loved ones and begin to recognize others as strangers. Your baby may demonstrate fear and uneasiness around people he or she does not know, a behavior called stranger anxiety.
  • Around 9 to 12 months of age, most babies have a clear preference for special people and will show affection to them. Babies miss their regular caregivers when they are away and often cry, turn away, or otherwise react strongly. This behavior is called separation anxiety or separation protest. With the increased mobility that crawling allows, babies who are secure in their attachment to their caregivers become more interested in exploring the world around them.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: September 06, 2013
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
    1
    Next Article:

    Emotional and Social Development, Ages 1 to 12 Months Topics

    Today on WebMD

    mother on phone holding baby
    When you should call 911.
    Mother with baby
    Unexpected ways your life will change.
     
    baby acne
    What’s normal – and what’s not.
    baby asleep on moms shoulder
    Help your baby get the sleep he needs.
     

    mother holding baby at night
    ARTICLE
    mother with sick child
    QUIZ
     
    baby with pacifier
    VIDEO
    Track Your Babys Vaccines
    TOOL
     
    Baby Napping 10 Dos And Donts
    Slideshow
    Woman holding feet up to camera
    Article
     
    Father kissing newborn baby
    Article
    baby gear slideshow
    Slideshow