Moral and social development refers to your baby’s ability to communicate and understand the world around her. Morality and socialization are developed at the same time, although your baby’s capacity for understanding right or wrong is limited in the first year. The trust you build with your baby during this time establishes the foundations for future morality and social interactions.
Moral Development in Infants
According to Ask Dr. Sears, during the first year your infant is not able to moralize in terms of how others feel, but he does have a sense of right or wrong when those feelings apply to himself. For example, he determines that hunger is a wrong feeling, because it’s uncomfortable and scary. Your response to his cries teaches him that you are there to make him feel better, and he feels rightness being at the center of his new world.
Birth to 3 Months
From birth, your baby learns to socialize based on your cues. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, during the first three months your baby begins to smile intentionally, and becomes increasingly communicative. She enjoys interacting with people and begins imitating movements and expressions. She is learning to identify the people who love and care for her. During this time she learns to use sounds, expressions and movements to tell you how she is feeling. As you respond to these cues, she learns that she can trust and rely on you to comfort her, which helps her learn to comfort herself. To encourage your baby’s moral and social development during the first three months, Zero to Three recommends that you hold, talk and sing to your baby to help her to feel loved.
4 to 7 Months
Between the ages of 4 and 7 months, your baby becomes increasingly social. Babies at this stage appear happy and joyful and communicate using sounds, movement and facial expressions. Zero to Three recommends that you learn and respond to your baby’s communication signals at this stage to encourage social development. If your baby looks at a mirror and smiles, ask him if he likes looking at himself. Have conversations with your baby. When you respond to his sounds, he knows you care about what he is saying and this encourages him to talk more.
8 to 12 Months
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, by 8 months of age your baby enjoys imitating others when playing and will start to show a preference for certain toys and people. When someone speaks to her, she makes sounds in reply. She is learning how to communicate emotions like happiness and anger, and actions like waving goodbye. While babies at this stage of social development enjoy meeting new people, they need time to feel comfortable with them. To encourage this stage of moral and social development, comment on what your baby does to make things happen and use words to describe her feelings. Copy her actions. If she waves, wave back to her. According to the University of Illinois, by 12 months of age your baby should also begin to develop an idea of what is and what is not allowed.