Emotions and Babies – When and How Babies Display Their Emotions

Emotions are revealed through facial expressions and modulation of voice tones. During infancy stage, expression of emotions is done in a forceful way and it occurs without any external cause. They express it in the form of crying and shouting. During the first two months of infant stage, the baby shows only two emotions — pleasure and displeasure, caused by physical stimulation. The baby shows out these emotions through body movements like relaxing the body to show pleasure and tensing the body with waving arms and kicking legs while crying to show displeasure.

By the third month, physical stimulation combined with psychological stimulation allows the baby to express the emotion of pleasure with a smile when he comes in contact with a human face and expressing displeasure with facial expressions and crying. During childhood, expressions are no longer displayed forcefully but through more reasonable means. This is due to factors of language development and also development of social behavior, which enables the child to understand that it is not proper to show emotions at all times. The development of her mind puts a check on emotional outbursts. Some common emotions a child expresses are happiness, anger, sadness, fear, love, sympathy and empathy. Let us see how these emotions are expressed.

Happiness

Happiness is expressed by the baby with fully joyful smiles to start with, and later with lively or prolific laughter. The baby smiles and laughs on attaining new skills or on overcoming an obstacle to reach a goal. He also shows happiness at the affection and stimulation of the care-givers. During the early weeks baby smiles when full, to gentle touches and sounds. By the end of first month, he smiles at something, say a bright object that comes across his field of vision. Social interaction begins by 3 months when baby smiles on coming into contact with familiar people, Laughter begins around 3 to 4 months when the parent is playful with the baby.

Around 6 months, baby smiles and laughs more on contact with familiar people. Around 10 to 12 months, baby’s smile differs with context like a broad cheek raised smile in response to a parent’s greeting, a reserved smile to a friendly stranger and a mouth-open smile while engaged in stimulating play. The baby is socially well developed when he is 2 years old and his emotional expressions become intentional or purposeful. He is delighted to respond to an adult attending to him amidst his play with an interesting toy.

Anger

Anger is expressed by newborn babies when they are hungry, find any inconvenience in body condition like change in temperature and when they face over-stimulation or too little stimulation. The frequency and intensity of anger increases from 4 to 6 months into the second year. They express this emotion in specific situations like when an interesting object they are playing with is removed from them or when their goal is blocked by an obstacle or when the care-giver leaves the place for a brief time or when a toy he is playing with stops functioning. Anger is intense when the baby does not receive the expected warm behavior from the care-giver. Anger is expressed in the form of outburst of bad temper – the baby may hit, kick, cry and scream.

Sadness

Sadness is also expressed in the same situations as that which causes anger. But this emotion is expressed much less frequently than anger.

Fear

Infants around 6 to 12 months express this emotion. They express fear for an animal, when left alone, when they meet a stranger, go to strange places and when they hear a sudden loud noise. Fear is expressed by crying. Infants of this age-period show reluctance to play with a new toy due to fear. Those who have just started to crawl show greater fear. Rise in this kind of fear after six months comes as a hurdle in the way of exploratory behavior of crawling and walking babies. Most infants and toddlers, though do not express their fear when they get to interact with strangers. They are still cautious of strangers, though. The baby cries out of fear when picked up by an unfamiliar adult in a strange setting. This fear can be reduced by the way of approach of the stranger who picks up the baby. He has to approach slowly, presenting the baby with an attractive toy or playing an interesting game the baby is familiar with.

Love and Sympathy

These emotions are expressed by the baby mostly to the intimate care-giver, the mother of the baby. When the baby sees the mother in his room he gives out a broad friendly smile. When picked up he pats her face, puts his gentle tiny hand into her hair and clings close to her body. Sympathy is expressed by the baby through facial expressions which the baby learns from the mother’s reaction to a situation.

Empathy

Empathy is an emotion caused by observing and recognizing what is happening to others – feeling bad because someone else is feeling bad.

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