Within this article, we are going to explore what is infancy, Hazards of Infancy including Physical and Psychological hazards, adjustments made in infancy period, and lastly, the Stages of Infant development.
What is Infancy?
Infancy is a period or state of being an infant which is the first or the early phase of childhood. This period starts from the birth to two years. These first two years of an individual’s life are the time of his most rapid development. He is a minor and struggles for reaching the stage of legal maturity.
Since the infancy period is that period in which the fetus comes to the world after spending nine crucial months in his mother’s womb, so he has to adjust with the outer surroundings anyhow. If the infant has had a normal birth without any complications, then he will complete his respective adjustment period in two weeks or even in less than two weeks.
However, if an infant has had a pre-mature or a difficult birth, then he will certainly take more time for the adjustments. Mothers! Be careful, since use of too much medicine at the time of birth may lead to serious complications.
Adjustments in Infancy period
Moving on to the four major adjustments infants need to make well in time for their better development include –
- Temperature changes
- Sucking and Swallowing
Breathing is one very important adjustment to be made during the infancy period. The umbilical cord which provides nourishment and all the required needs of the fetus including adequate supply of oxygen is cut at the time of birth and the infant must start breathing on its own.
Secondly, the temperature in the uterine sac where the fetus lives for almost nine crucial months is constantly maintained at 100°F, while temperature outside may vary from 60 to 70°F. So the infants need to quickly make adjustments for their better development.
Sucking and Swallowing
Next comes another adjustment of Sucking and Swallowing which I believe is the most important adjustment infants need to make after breathing adjustments. The infants until their birth receive nourishment through the umbilical cord and now when the umbilical cord is cut to bring them to this world they need to fulfill their nutritional requirements by sucking and swallowing.
Lastly, the elimination which took place through the umbilical cord now has to take place through the infant’s organs of elimination. The infancy period is the shortest period of development for a child and has many hazards which include both physical and psychological hazards.
Physical hazards during Infancy
The physical hazards can affect the entire life span of the child. We will talk about some of the physical hazards of infancy here: –
Complications at the time of birth have a high possibility of causing physical harm to the child. A caesarean birth is likely to cause more harm than a normal delivery since it results in anoxia which means a temporary loss of oxygen to the brain. If this temporary loss of oxygen to brain is for a longer duration then its likely that the brain damage would be severe. Therefore, we can say that more complicated the birth and the more damage to the brain due to anoxia, greater will be the effect on the infant’s postnatal life.
Another situation that causes severe effects due to anoxia is a pre-mature delivery which can even cause death of the infant. Anoxia is a major problem because a pre-mature infant’s respiratory mechanism is not fully developed. It’s effect maybe long lasting.
This understanding of the characteristics of the infancy period leads us to understand the types of development that take place in the infancy period.
Psychological hazards during Infancy
Psychological hazards of infancy include the traditional beliefs associated with birth. For example – Some people believe that the children born with birth complications lead a difficult life. Also, the attitude of parents towards the infant due to gender preferences, complications at the time of birth, unexpected arrival of twins or triplets etc affects his growth.
Stages of Infant Development
The development process of the infants takes place in four aspects:
To begin with, let’s understand the First aspect of development i.e physical growth/development. The first year of the infant is characterized by rapid physical growth. A normal baby doubles his birth weight in six months and triples it in a year. Development of most vital organs for survival takes place during this time i.e brain, heart and lungs of the baby develop.
By the end of the second year the brain reaches 75% of it’s adult weight. However, certain nutritional deficiencies during mother’s pregnancy and even during infancy can lead to irreversible impairment of growth and development, while overfed infants tend to become obese later in life. A new born infants sleeps constantly, awakening only for feedings but by the time he is three months old he acquires a regular schedule for sleeping, feeding and bowel movements.
Second aspect, cognitive development in infancy refers to the mental activities or processes involved in the processing and use of knowledge which include detecting, interpreting, classifying & remembering information, evaluating ideas, making strategies, fantasizing and dreaming.
Jean Piaget, the most influential psychologist of the 20th century has mentioned four stages of cognitive development in his studies which are:
- Sensory Motor Stage ( birth – 2 years)
- Pre-Operational Stage ( 2-7 years)
- Concrete Operational Stage ( 7-11 years)
- Formal Operational Stage ( 11-15 years)
Moving on to the Third aspect, the psycho-social development which is as simple as learning about yourself through your surrounding and other people. Psychoanalyst Erik Erikson has defined the theory of Trust vs. Mistrust which is the main feature of infant development. This occurs between birth and one year of age. Because an infant is purely dependent on his family, the development of trust is thus based on the dependability and quality of his caregivers.
If an infant develops trust, he’ll feel secured in this world. Caregivers who are emotionally unavailable contribute to development of feelings of mistrust in the infants. The stage requires the basic needs of infant being met by the parents so if the parents fail to do so the infant will develop a feeling of mistrust which is harmful to the infant’s development.
Lastly, the linguistic or language development in infancy is a process when a person begins to acquire language by learning it as it is spoken. Language is acquired with amazing rapidity in infants, particularly after infants speak first word, usually around the end of first year. Infants use their bodies and vocal cries to communicate their needs and wants. Gradually, infant’s babbling and other gestures turn into speech.
Phonology, Semantics, Grammar and Pragmatics are the four main components of language development in children and have their own appropriate developmental periods.