Socioemotional Development in Infants
and Toddlers
Chapter 6
• emotional tie to a specific person or persons
• exists across time and space
• infants tend to form attachments with primary
• Bowlby’s early work
– Early infancy—orientation without
discrimination.(2-4 mos)
• Orients to any attending adult
• Little discrimination among caregiving adults
– Middle infancy—orientation with discrimination
(6-8 mos)
• Gazing preference for primary caregivers
• Responds differentially to primary caregivers
Bowlby’s Early Work on Attachment
– Late infancy early toddlerhood—safe-base
attachment (6-12 mos)
• Actively seek to be near caregivers
• Seek proximal contact
• Become distressed when caregiver leaves (bond across
time and space)
– Toddlerhood—goal corrected partnerships
• Recognize motives of caregivers
• Toddler adjusts behaviors to needs and motives of
Ainsworth’s work
• Strange situation (page 193, Table 6.1)
– Stranger anxiety—signals attachment
– Separation anxiety—signals attachment
• Attachment Status
– Secure Attachment
• Mother return: infant seeks contact; cling tightly; allows
mother to comfort and soothe
• Majority of infants show secure attachment
Ainsworth’s work
• Attachment Status
– Insecure Avoidant Attachment
• No preference for mother (avoids or shows
equal preference for mother and stranger)
• Mother leaves infants undisturbed;
• Continue playing with stranger
Ainsworth’s work
• Attachment Status
– Insecure Resistant\ Ambivalent Attachment
• Exaggerated stranger and separation anxiety
• Exaggerated need to maintain proximal contact with
• Some resistant to mother’s attempts to soothe
• Some passive with mother’s attempts to console
• Some variable in response (cycles of calm and anger)
• Variable in status
Ainsworth’s work
• Attachment Status
• Parental quality and attachment (sensitive
– Secure Attachment
• Timely response
• Appropriate response
– Insecure disorganized or disoriented Attachments
• abusive parents or parents who suffered abuse
Ainsworth’s work
• Insecure Attachments
– indifferent parenting—response only when necessary or
when the parent is impacted
– indulgent parenting—over stimulating; intrusive;
– unresponsive parenting—neglectful
• Mothers of insecurely attached infants
unresponsive; little interest
mechanical handling
scheduled vs. demand feeding
Infant Characteristics, Caregiver Characteristics
and Attachments
• Easy Infants--associated with greater frequency of
secure attachments
• Special needs—associated with insecure attachments
• Fussy or difficult infants associated with higher levels
of irritability-- tend to develop insecure attachments
with mothers who have low levels of social support
• Model tends to be bidirectional with infant
characteristics interacting with caregiver
characteristics to yield the attachment status
Infant Characteristics, Caregiver Characteristics
and Attachments
• Fathers’ role in attachment:
– fathers’ roles tend to reflect mothers’ roles in
relationships with attachment statuses
• Child care and caregiver attachment:
– with quality child care, no difference in
attachment given caregiver is responsive in
sensitive and timely ways when with infant
Attachment and Developmental Outcomes
• Long-term outcomes:
– securely attached infants tend to have some early
advantage over other attachment statuses;
– higher quality care later in childhood and
adolescence can overcome early attachment
Erikson’s first psychosocial stage:
Trust vs. Mistrust
• Two tasks:
– establish sense that the environment is going to
meet basic needs in a timely and appropriate
– establish sense that the self is an active agent in
one’s own outcomes
Erikson’s first psychosocial stage:
Trust vs. Mistrust
• caregivers who establish a sensitive responsiveness
are likely to develop a sense of trust
• infant comes to learn that differential cries relate to
differential outcomes
• Infant develops a sense of contingency between
behaviors and outcomes—a sense of agency
• The reactivity of the infant to the environment
• Genetics plays a significant role in
• Temperament is measured across nine
dimensions (Table 6.5, pg 204)
– Activity level, rhythmicity, intensity of reaction,
– Profile based on levels of each dimension
• Temperament Constellations:
– Easy: generally positive; stable rhythm of
movement, sleep adapts to new situations, smiles
– Slow-to-Warm-Up: slow to adapt to new
situations; mildly negative response; more intense
reactions than Easy babies but less than difficult
– Difficult: intense negative reactions to new
situations; slow to adapt; irregular patterns of
sleeping and activity overall;
• Based on an interaction of genetics and
interactions with the environment
• Balance between temperament and
environment determines outcomes
• Scarr:
– Passive: infant’s environment is frequently based
on biological parents so, genetic tendency is
reinforced by the environment
– Parents who accommodate to their infant’s
temperament tend to have more successful
• In the first 12 months of life, infants tend to respond
differentially and more sensitively to expressed
emotions by caregiver
– Fear, anger, sadness, interest, joy resulted in
differential responses to the visual cliff
– Infants reference the reactions of caregivers as
cues for their own reactions
– From very early on, infants tend to respond to
distress cries from other infants
• Toddlers:
– Sense of self as independent entity leads to:
• Self conscious emotions
• Expanded emotional repertoire
–Guilt, embarrassed, pride
– Comparison of one’s own behaviors to some
standard is linked to cognitive and social
Infant and Toddler Play
• Infant Play
– Mutual gaze—first awareness of the other
– Sensorimotor Play—
• Focus is on interactions with motion and
objects in the environment
• Some level of novelty is preferred
• Repetition of actions is frequent
• Toys over which infants can assert control tend
to be preferred and build a sense of agency
(Bandura, 1977; c.f. Erikson, trust—mistrust)
Infant and Toddler Play
• Toddler Play
– With language, mobility, and cognitive
development, toddlers move to more socially
mediated play
– Coordinated imitation—tend to repeat others’
– Early toddler play remains focused on motion and
objects (e.g. block stacking)
– As maturation occurs, more social role play
Infant and Toddler Play
• Toddler Play
– More advanced levels of social play (negotiating
roles, changing roles) tend to be related to more
lasting friendships across childhood
– Conflicts arise!
• Distraction and diversion tend to work best
with toddlers
• Conflicts tend to be based on possession of
objects or turns at some desired activity
• Possession is ownership (similar to dog rules)
Infant and Toddler Play
• Toddler Play
– As language and symbolic thought improve,
toddlers begin make-believe play
– Imaginary roles and substitution of one object for
another (shoe becomes a truck) occurs
– Children can appear to be much more cognitively
advanced in play with peers than alone.

Socioemotional Development in Infants and Toddlers