Infancy Development

Categories: Autism

During infancy, the state of transient exuberance and neuroplasticity allows the brain to develop rapidly. (Newman, 2017) During this time of growth, infants begin to develop skills as they learn how to process the world. This paper will explore the biological, psychological, and social aspects of development during the first two years of human life. Infancy is a time period filled with exciting milestones and growth.

The average full-term birth weight is 7 to 7.5 pounds. Babies who are born earlier can have low birth weight, which increases their risk for asthma, impaired vision, developmental delays, and cognitive impairment.

This is because low birth weight babies have undeveloped lungs and cannot deliver adequate oxygen to the brain. Modern medical technology has enhanced the care and survival rate for low birth weight babies (Newman, 2017).

Within only a few weeks, infants show a preference for stimuli that look like human faces. By two months of age, infants can form expectations of patterned events in a sequence.

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By three months, infants will be able to associate someone's voice with their face. By six months old, infants have acquired a preference for words spoken in their mother's language. In the next six months, they develop the ability to attach meaning to sounds. As for taste, infants show a preference for sweet and salty foods over sour and bitter. Babies can recognize the smell of their mother’s milk. At five months, infants learn to use their hands to feel the details of objects. As infants mature, sensory information is continually integrated into their neural circuitry to form associations.

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For example, at first, a mother must guide the baby's mouth to her nipple and promote nursing. After several sessions, the baby uses sensory information like the feeling of the nipple and the smell of milk to nurse with more efficiency and independence (Newman, 2017).

Infant motor development builds on the foundation of reflexes. A reflex is when a stimulus causes a specific motor response. For example, when an object is placed in an infant’s mouth, they automatically begin sucking. This reflex facilitates survival as it allows infants to be easily breastfed. With time, infants will learn how to adjust the strength and speed of their sucking. Another reflex is the stepping reflex, which is rhythmic stepping in response to support under an infant's arms. This reflex later develops into walking around one year of age. The grasp reflex is when pressure on the fingers or palm shown were showntoshownincludesshown to shown to stress the closing and tightening of the hand (Newman, 2017). This can also be a survival mechanism by offering infants stability and preventing a fall.

There are many motor developmental milestones achieved during infancy. At three months, infants can bring the hand to the mouth and raise their head when on the stomach. Between four and seven months, they can roll both ways and sit without the support of hands. Between eight and twelve months, infants will be crawling forward and getting to the sitting position without help. Although crawling may look simple, it takes a lot of practice for infants to master the coordination of their limbs and head position. In the second year of life, infants continue to progress in their abilities to move. They will walk alone, carry large toys, run, kick balls, and climb on furniture (Newman, 2017).

The first stage of Piaget’s theory of cognitive development takes place during the first two years of life and is named the sensorimotor stage. After the first month of life, babies advance from reflexes and begin to repeat pleasurable actions centered on their own, also known as primary circular reactions. At four months, secondary circular reactions surface, which are repeated pleasurable actions involving objects such as toys. At eight months, the coordinating secondary schemes occur. This is the baby’s ability to reach the desired object, such as moving one item to reach another. Then infants perform tertiary circular reactions, which is intentionally adapting to a specific situation, like reconstructing a broken toy. The final level of the sensorimotor stage is the appearance of symbolic thought. This is the ability for infants to visualize something that is not physically present, also known as object permanence, which marks the transition to the next stage of development. Object permanence can be tested by placing a toy under a sheet and observing whether or not the child will look for it (McLeod, 2018).

Infants begin communicating very early with simple gestures like gazing and smiling. By five months of age, infants have established language perception. They can recognize the sound of their owno name and distinguish between words that emphasize the first syllable and the second syllable. Shortly after, infants begin babbling and progress to connecting and repeating consonants and vowels. A baby's babbling will sound more and more like the language they hear daily. At eight months, infants can combine sounds with gestures to communicate. For example, the owncausesinfant will raise their arms above their head and produce grunting or whining sounds to signal to their caregiver that they want to be picked up. This progresses to infants seeking adult attention and behaviors like showing adults objects and then pointing gestures (Newman, 2017).

Research has shown that by seven months, infants have grammar recognition skills that allow them to register rules that hold sounds together in language. They will also be able to understand the meaning of specific words and phrases such as “look at me”. Studies show that high levels of early phonetic perception at six months of age are for single-wordbaba correlated with enhanced language skills such as word understanding and production at two years of age. (Tsao, 2004) Around one year is when babies will typically say their first words. This is a monumental moment of parents. infants will still use single word utterances combined with gestures or actions to communicate, also known as holophrases. the hurtthephraseshurt the hrases like “ba ba” can mean “I want my bottle”. Within six months of an infant's first word, there is a rapid progression in their vocabulary. Infants learn that every object of action has a word, and they may be able to say up to 180 words by eighteen months (Newman, 2017).

Infants with developmental disabilities such as autism have abnormal language development. Normally, newborns become increasingly responsive to human voices. However, infants with autism spectrum disorder are insensitive to speech stimuli and are unable to develop normal language and communication skills. Neuroimaging can be used to find this altered voice processing in infants at a young age. Early therapeutic intervention can help infants restore developmental trajectory of language and communication (Sperdin, 2016).

During infancy, high levels of stress can have a negative impact on brain development. Hunger, thirst, overstimulation, extreme temperature, and lack of social contact are some factors that can cause stress to infants. The physiological response to stress includes increased heart rate, blood pressure, and cortisol. In a supportive environment, where these stressors are alleviated in a timely fashion, a healthy stress response system is developed through strengthening of neural networks. On the other hand, when these stressors are chronic without resolution, brain development is disrupted and the risk for stress related stress-related to disease and cognitive impairment is increased (Newman, 2017).

Several studies show the relation of early life stress on development. The early life stressors include maltreatment, institutionalized rearing, and low socioeconomic status. Infants raised in these environments are more prone to prolonged stress. Researchers found differences in brain functioning in these children in the areas of mental health, cognitive and emotional functioning, inhibitory control, reward processing, and encoding of social information. Specific brain regions shownwere related to wordperiodword period-relatedword baba to be affected by early-life early-life their one-year-old stress include the amygdala and striatum, which are key components of emotional processing (Graham, 2014).

fMRI studies have shown that Infants affected by maltreatment have altered functioning of the amygdala. Researchers in London recruited approximately one year old infants with documented abuse and exposed them to pictures of happy, neutral, and angry faces. Compared to the control group, these infants had significantly higher activation of the amygdala. These findings suggest that infants exposed to adversity very early in life acquire a hypervihypervigilant emotional responses havegilant emotional responses. Soldiers with PTSD and children with generalized anxiety disorder also have a heightened amygdala response (McCory, 2013).

From the findings of these studies, we can assume that infants raised in communities with high rates of poverty and crime has a negative impact onhurtfor brain development. Nurturing caregivers and a safe living space can reduce the chances that an infant will struggle with mental health disorders later in life. Single young parents face challenges that can lead to neglect and stress to infants. Thankfully there are social services and governmental programs that address these issues and function to rescue infants from unfortunate circumstances.

In conclusion, the extensive development during the first two years of life fascinatinggovernmentis babies'. Throughout infancy, a baby's ability to communicate, move, and interact with tishurheir environment are enhanced. Low birth weight, autism, and early life stress are some issues that can have a negative impact on an infant's development and even affect brain structure. However, a nurturing and stimulating environment will allow an infant to progress by speaking words, walking, and achieving object permanence. Knowledge of the developmental milestones of infants is essential for parents and caregivers to assure their child is thriving through infancy.


  1. Newman, B. M. (20170412). Development Through Life: A Psychosocial Approach, 13th Edition [VitalSource Bookshelf version]. Retrieved from vbk://9781337514996
  2. Tsao, F. , Liu, H. and Kuhl, P. K. (2004), Speech Perception in Infancy Predicts Language Development in the Second Year of Life: A Longitudinal Study. Child Development, 75: 1067-1084. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8624.2004.00726.x
  3. Sperdin, H. F., & Schaer, M. (2016). Aberrant Development of Speech Processing in Young Children with Autism: New Insights from Neuroimaging Biomarkers. Frontiers in neuroscience, 10, 393. doi:10.3389/fnins.2016.00393
  4. Graham, A. M., Pfeifer, J. H., Fisher, P. A., Lin, W., Gao, W., & Fair, D. A. (2014). The potential of infant fMRI research and the study of early life stress assistive giant is a promising exemplar. Developmental cognitive neuroscience, 12, 12-39.
  5. McCrory, E., De Brito, S., Kelly, P., Bird, G., Sebastian, C., Mechelli, A., . . . Viding, E. (2013). Amygdala activation in maltreated children during pre-attentive emotional processing. British Journal of Psychiatry, 202(4), 269-276. doi:10.1192/bjp.bp.112.116624
  6. McLeod, S. A. (2018). Sensorimotor stage. Retrieved from
Updated: May 22, 2022
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Infancy Development. (2022, May 22). Retrieved from

Infancy Development essay
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