Infant Emotions and their Emotional Expressions


By: Karen Quijada

Emotions are normally referred to feelings caused by experiences, they can emerge slowly, explode quickly, emotions can be mixed together and vary in intensity. There are five universal emotions, these are the basic emotions- joy, fear, anger, surprise, sadness, and disgust. Regardless of what corner in the world you live in, you will be able to tell what someone else is feeling through their emotions. Children use their emotions to express some type of discomfort, if they  feel some type of danger, or if they want their needs to be met. So do infants experience emotions the same way we, adults, do? Can they distinct  emotions from joy to fear to anger? Or do these emotions grow as infants go into childhood? Or are they born with some emotions and as they grow new emotions emerge? There are 2 theories of infants and their emotions, the first is the Theory of Gradual Differentiation and the second is the Differential Emotions Theory. The Theory of Gradual Differentiation is that infants are born with general emotional reaction that are either positive or negative and as they grow their basic emotions emerge. For example when a baby cries he or she may feel discomfort but an infant will cry to express anger or sadness. While the Differential Emotions Theory states that our basic emotions emerge in their adult form from birth. So basically we are born and able to express anger, joy, fear, sadness, surprise, and disgust from birth.

Another important thing to keep in mind is that primary intersubjectivity is important. Primary intersubjectivity is an organized, reciprocal interaction between and infant and caregiver with the interaction itself as the focus. Meaning that whatever emotions the caregiver is expressing, the infant will pick up on it and react to it. In this video,  “Still Face Method that I came across, you will see how important it is to interact with your child and how quickly the infant will try to get things back to the norm when both the infant and caregiver where socializing. The video below is a procedure called the still-face method. Where the Mom and child interacted normally and after a few minutes the Mom was cued to pose a neutral “still face,” and to stop responding to the baby. As you will see in the video, the baby will begin repeat some of the same movements she had done earlier when the Mom was interacting with her but when she see’s that the Mom still doesn’t respond the baby becomes distressed. Remember that its important to interact with your baby it will lead to a healthy secure attachment!


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