Emotions across the Life Span: Infancy

As much as I talk about how my client’s ‘feel’  studying for the Clinical Licensing exam has pushed me to reexamine emotions and how they develop within us.   As I begin to understand how emotions develop throughout the life cycle it’s important to keep the leading theories regarding emotions in mind.

Theories of Emotion:  Self-Perception Theory (BEM ’72) & Two-factor (Cognitive) Theory

The theories complement each other in which they state that emotions stem from our behaviors and/or the cues we get from our context or environment.  A person’s ability to understand, regulate and utilize emotions can be measured by Emotional Intelligence or EQ.   Emotions are seen from birth and continue to develop throughout our lives.

What infants can feel?clp70016

At birth we are able to feel Interest, disgust, distress and happiness

Smiles can be seen at birth but should not be confused for social (real) smiles.  Reflexive smiles are based on internal stimuli, like gas.  Real smiles can occur as early as 4 weeks.  Social smiles are a result of external stimuli, like a care givers, voice, touch or face.  Like any other normal adult infants begin selecting what they want to smile at by 6 months.  FIG 6.1They typically smile at familiar faces rather than strangers.

10 weeks – 6months:  anger, sadness, surprise, and fear

It takes a sense of self and morals to develop more complex emotions such as embarrassment and pride, which can be seen as early as 2 years.  Also infants 2 years of age can fake emotions to manipulate others.

As stated in theories of emotion.  Infants as young as 6 months can be affected by other people’s moods or their context.

Stay tuned for part 2:  emotions in childhood

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