lists some of the developmental and behavioral problems that are often observed during the first few years of life. Each problem tends to occur most frequently at a particular age4)
. For example, excessive crying typically occurs during the first 3 months; biting, scratching, or hitting other children is more likely to be seen when a child is between 2 and 5 years old.
Typical developmental difficulties during the early years.
According to the scientific literature, development in infancy is not continuous, but alternates between periods of consolidation and development spurts that are also termed biobehavioral shifts, touchpoints, critical steps, or periods of qualitative transition. The concept of touchpoints5)
postulates sensitive periods shortly before each impending developmental shift (around 3, 9, 12, and 18 months), in which critical regulatory tasks must be completed.
The predominance of certain syndromes at certain ages and the age-related course of these syndromes coincide remarkably well with the postulated touchpoints6)
Each developmental phase places new demands on the infant's capacity to regulate, which depends on the structural and functional maturity of the brain as well as the accumulated experiences that have already been integrated.
The first biopsychosocial shift promotes regulation at a higher level of integration around the ages of 2 and 3 months. Emde and Osofsky7)
have stressed the emerging social capabilities (persistent eye contact, social smiling, and melodious cooing) as the "awakening of sociability." This preverbal communication provides a framework for practicing reciprocal regulation of attention, positive affective arousal, and self-efficacy.
Another developmental shift occurs in the middle of the second half-year (around 9 months), during which canonical babbling begins, and object permanence, intentionality, fear of strangers, and crawling, among other things, occur at more or less the same time8)
. The beginning of independent locomotion allows for the child's growing need for exploration, as well as its opposite: an increased need for closeness.
A third biopsychosocial developmental shift begins around the middle of the second year of life and brings with it new regulatory challenges for both toddlers and parents. Independent walking offers a child an almost limitless range of exploration. Symbolic play and a spurt in vocabulary mark new levels of symbolization, language-mediated integration of experience, imagination, and representations of the self and attachment figures. At a motivational level, the interplay between the growing need for autonomy and the need for reassurance is first and foremost; in communication, it is the balance between dependency and autonomy, and the negotiation of social rules and limits.