Introduction to Infancy

Learning Objectives

At the end of this lesson, you will be able to

  1. Summarize overall physical growth during infancy.
  2. Describe the growth of the brain during infancy.
  3. Contrast development of the senses in newborns.
  4. Compare gross and fine motor skills and give examples of each.
  5. Explain the merits of breastfeeding.
  6. Discuss nutritional concerns of marasmus and kwashiorkor.
  7. List and describe the six substages of sensorimotor intelligence.
  8. Describe stages of language development during infancy.
  9. Define babbling, holophrasic speech, and overregularization.
  10. Contrast styles of attachment.
  11. Discuss the importance of temperament and goodness of fit.
  12. Describe self-awareness, stranger wariness, and separation anxiety.
  13. Use Erikson’s theory to characterize psychosocial development during infancy.


Welcome to the story of development from infancy through toddlerhood; from birth until about two years of age. Researchers have given this part of the life span more attention than any other period, perhaps because changes during this time are so dramatic and so noticeable and perhaps because we have assumed that what happens during these years provides a foundation for one’s life to come. However, it has been argued that the significance of development during these years has been overstated (Bruer, 1999). Nevertheless, this is a period of life that contemporary educators, healthcare providers, and parents have focused on most heavily. We will examine growth and nutrition during infancy, cognitive development during the first 2 years, and then turn our attention toward attachments formed in infancy.   


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Berger, K. S. (2005). The developing person through the life span (6th ed.). New York: Worth.

Berk, L. E. (n.d.). Development through the life span (4th ed.). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Bruer, J. T. (1999). The myth of the first three years: A new understanding of early brain development and lifelong learning. New York: Simon and Schuster.

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Hart, S., & Carrington, H. (2002). Jealousy in 6-month-old infants. Infancy, 3(3), 395-402.

LeVine, R. A., Dixon, S., LeVine, S., Richman, A., Leiderman, P. H., Keefer, C. H., & Brazelton, T. B. (1994). Child care and culture: Lessons from Africa. New York: Cambridge University Press.

O’Connor, T. G., Marvin, R. S., Rotter, M., Olrich, J. T., Britner, P. A., & The English and Romanian Adoptees Study Team. (2003). Child-parent attachment following early institutional deprivation. Development and Psychopathology, 15, 19-38.

Sen, M. G., Yonas, A., & Knill, D. C. (2001). Development of infants’ sensitivity to surface contour information for spatial layout. Perception, 30, 167-176.

Van Ijzendoorn, M. H., & Sagi, A. (n.d.). Cross-cultural patterns of attachment. In J. Cassidy & P. R. Shaver (Eds.), Handbook of attachment: Theory, research, and clinical applications (pp. 713-734). New York: Guilford.

Webb, S. J., Monk, C. S., & Nelson, C. A. (2001). Mechanisms of postnatal neurobiological development: Implications for human development. Developmental Neuropsychology, 19, 147-171.