Your Clever Toddler in Week 54: More Learning about Love and Trust
What your child learns this week
Your Child’s Brain in Week 54
By month 13, your child has learned a lot of truths about the environment around him. In the physical world, for example, similar objects react in similar ways: All balls roll down ramps and can bang into objects. All objects continue to exist even when they’re out of sight. People move themselves, but objects need to be propelled into action by an external agent.
Now at this age, your child is noticing newer constants—this time, about the people in his universe. Specifically, he is observing how people react to other people, including how the grown-ups around him respond to his needs. By 54 weeks, your child has created an attachment hierarchy to the adults who care for him: He has established rules about who he’ll turn to first, second, and so on, and he’s weathered the stormy emotions that being separated from those people can cause. Based on how these caretakers respond to his needs, your child develops an “internal working model” of how other people—like those outside his attachment hierarchy—will respond to him.
The secure child has parents and caregivers who respond quickly to his needs, read his cues for care, and relieve his distress; therefore, he trusts that others will do so, too. He expects loving responses from others and seeks out relationships that support the internal working model he developed at about one year.
What the Research Shows
In a research project, babies as young as 12 months watched an animated film of a “mother” (a big circle) and a “baby” (a small circle). In one scene, the mama circle moved up a sloped hill, separating herself from her baby; the baby circle began to pulsate and wail. Then the film showed one of two outcomes: the mother circle moved down the slope toward the crying baby, or else she continued to move away from him up the slope.
Before this study, researchers tested and identified the babies as having secure or insecure attachments to their primary caregivers. Those babies who had been identified as “secure” expected that the mother circle would return to the baby; if she didn’t, the babies looked longer at this puzzling, unresponsive circle-mom. The babies identified as “insecure,” sadly, were perplexed when the mother circle returned to comfort the wailing baby circle—they looked at the screen longer when the mother circle responded lovingly by her changing course and returning to the child. Conversely, the insecure babies were blasé to the mother circle who continued to walk away from the distressed circle baby, and the secure babies found it normal for the circle-mom to return to the wailing circle baby to comfort her.
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