This is not a step backwards and the baby has not been
"spoiled". The recognition of strangers is an important
step in the baby's development.
During the previous months his mother had shared his pleasures
and anxieties, tended him during illness, aided him in the gradual
mastery of his body, understood his non-verbal communications.
This and their physical closeness has established her as the most
familiar person in his life, the person he most enjoys being with.
Now he is aware of the world beyond his mother, and for a time
he is fearful of it and cannot cope. He therefore turns for safety
to the person to whom he has become powerfully attached. Everyone
else is for a time unwelcome.
This phase of "stranger recognition" can be
embarrassing and tiresome for the parents, but it is normal and
necessary for good social and emotional development. It is a first
step towards the child's ability to discriminate between strangers
and those he loves, an ability to enter into enduring
relationships in later life.
After about Nine Months: Making Real Relationships
The fear of strangers lasts from two to eight weeks, during
which time the baby may have withdrawn even from the father. But
by eight to nine months he will return to him again in a more
mature way of relating. The strength of the baby's attachment to
him reflects the extent of the father's availability and
involvement. The father is known and enjoyed but is as yet less
important than the mother because his role as a breadwinner
usually means that he has the smaller part in the ongoing care.
But the father becomes increasingly important as the months and
years go by.
Gradually the baby makes a few other relationships to close
family members, and perhaps to family friends, but always
according to the extent of their involvement with him. His
behavior towards people outside the family is reserved. He is now
acutely aware of the difference between intimate family, friendly
acquaintances and strangers. The blood tie has no meaning for him.
His relationship to a near neighbor may be closer than to a
By the end of the first year the baby is crawling and perhaps
walking, curious about the world around him; bravely moving a few
yards away from the mother or father but speedily getting back to
one of them as a place of safety if danger threatens, or if he is
tired or hurt; friendly to familiar people outside the family but
not indiscriminately so as when he was four or five months old.