The psychological formation of infants is based on interaction with others, relationships, and awareness of their feelings. Emotional regulation and self-awareness develop in the first months of life and help build more complex social relationships. Attachment is a key aspect of socioemotional development at an early age. It develops as a result of the healthy interaction of infants and caregivers. In the case of an inadequate response to the child’s needs, insecure attachment types may develop, which negatively affects the child’s socioemotional development.
From birth, infants use two types of emotional responses: withdrawal and attachment. They subconsciously use these mechanisms to react to pleasant or unpleasant events. Positive attention stimulates social smiling when the infant engages in interactions with other people. Unpleasant experiences, both physical and emotional, on the contrary, cause manifestations of frustration. Gradually infants develop more complex forms of awareness of emotions. At 6-15 months of age, they may exhibit a social response in the form of separation anxiety, stranger wariness, and even jealousy. These processes not only mark important cognitive advancements but also identify the strengthening of social bonds between the child and the caregivers.
Socioemotional development is also characterized by the emotional regulation which infants use to communicate with parents and others. Although at an early age, children rely on caregivers as a source of emotion regulation (distraction or attention), at four months of age, they can already use self-regulation strategies. Thus, they are able to avoid unpleasant stimuli and, at 12 months of age, utilize their mobility to avoid them. Participating in a child’s emotional development through articulation and coping strategies also improves socialization and simulates healthy attachment patterns establishment.
At the age of two, infants show self-awareness, which means the perception of their body and mind as separate from other people and objects. This ability develops between 15 and 24 months of age. This stage is extremely important in the socio-emotional formation of the child, as it allows him to be aware of such social emotions as shame or guilt, as well as to express empathy and sympathy. Self-awareness is also the basis for the subsequent development of an analysis of other people’s mental states, which is necessary for more complex social interactions.
Attachment is critical for the formation of a healthy psychological state in a child. A secure base gives infants the opportunity to experience a sense of security while exploring the world around them. For its formation, two components are necessary: an adequate response of caregivers to the social, physiological, and emotional needs of the child; and mutually pleasant for both parties interaction. Thus, secure attachment develops, which is the healthiest form of relationship between the infant and other people. In this case, the child prefers parents to strangers and is anxious when they leave him for a long time.
There are also other forms of attachment which develop as a consequence of unhealthy social relationships. Avoidant attachment is characterized by a lack of emotional response to caregivers. Infants do not feel secure around their parents and do not prioritizes them over strangers. This condition develops as a consequence of the caregivers’ insensitivity to the needs of the child. Resistant attachment manifests itself as an alternation of excessive attachment and indifference of the child to caregivers. In the event of separation from their parents, such infants feel fear and anger towards them and also do not explore the environment. This condition may be due to the caregivers’ inconsistent response to the child’s needs. Disorganized attachment is characterized by strange behavior in the absence of caregivers and avoiding contact with them upon return. This condition develops in the case of abuse or neglect of the infant, which also leads to a violation of the formation of patterns of emotional regulation. However, the type of attachment can also be influenced by the culture or temperament of the child, but the secure type is still the norm.