Infant's development and growth

Babyhood and the beginning of things— this is indeed a fascinating subject. It is fraught with interest to parents and to all teachers who recognize the importance of the first years, and that John at five years is the result of Baby John and what experiences he may have encountered in the first five years.

During the first year a great measure of growth is achieved. In the first few weeks most of the baby's time is spent in sleeping. He seems to have very little awareness of the external world, and takes no active part in it except to gain nourishment. But by the end of twelve months he presents a different picture. He is struggling manfully to express himself vocally, and to achieve locomotion, and though very much dependent on the good services of the adults around him when in difficulties, he is eminently curious about the external world and extremely keen to explore it.

Some psychologists have made special studies of this period of growth.  Dynamic school of psychology briefly means that they consider inner drives or impulses to be the fundamental " vitamins " as it were of the child's behavior, and though there may be much disagreement in regard to the form and type of instinctive and emotional expression, there is general agreement that a child is urged to express himself by means of inner forces, and that his environment only serves to control, to mould, or to redirect these forces. The Behaviorist school aims at establishing a strictly scientific standard. Its followers confine themselves to describing and recording overt behavior, and stress the importance of reflex movements and the way in which all behavior may be conditioned by them, instead of postulating any form of instinctive drive. This school of thought is regarded by some psychologists as too narrow and too limited in its conception of human nature.


There are three main types of motor behavior in infancy—positive, negative, and spontaneous movements. Positive movements are at first mainly connected with feeding. The new-born baby is most concerned with feeding in his waking moments, and it is natural that positive movements should be first shown towards the mother or nurse who feeds him, and thence should extend to movements connected with looking, listening, and grasping. Only about 3 per cent of the infant's total activities at birth consists of positive movements, but by the end of the first year they have extended to about 72 per cent.

Negative movements are more evident at birth and are said to constitute about 7 per cent of the infant's activity. These are shown as flight or shock responses to external stimuli such as powerful light or sound stimuli. At first the infant's powers of defense or adaptability are very limited. Gradually, as he becomes more accustomed to the external world, as he finds that it does not always bring him, like Jonathan Jo, " a wheelbarrow full of surprises," the negative movements tend to decrease.
Both these types of motor behavior include a number of reflex movements, such as suckling, grasping, swallowing (positive movements), and blinking, coughing, sneezing, knee jerking, etc. (negative movements). It is important to realize that the infant is born into the world with certain forms of behavior perfectly prepared, or readily acquired a little later as needed. Such reflex action is essentially different from the action of acquired skill in that it is automatic, and requires no conscious attention. But it is important that mothers should recognize that it is by no means an easy task for a baby to learn to retain his urine, or to drink from a cup, or to do up his own coat buttons. These are not reflex actions but have to be taught gradually as muscular skill develops.

The third type of motor behavior characteristic of infancy—spontaneous movements—is said to represent only about 1 per cent of the new-born infant's total activity, but these movements gradually increase, and are said to predominate after the first year. They at first appear purposeless, and are probably in response to internal stimuli, and consist of random movements of arms and legs. Later they take the form of all types of exploratory and investigatory movements of hands and legs and body, and from the point of view of the child's general development are very important, because it is by means of such activity that the child builds up a knowledge of his external environment.

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