Why Attachment, Anger, and Separation Anxiety in Babies is Normal

Infant crying on grass holding a flower
Photo Monica Holli|CC

Your 7-14 month old infant expresses a wide-range of emotions as a normal part of social-emotional development including joy, attachment, separation anxiety, and even anger.

At around 7 months, infants become attached to their primary caregivers and begin to show signs of affection. They kiss, hug, smile and want to be with their primary caregiver. All children should show signs of attachment by one year old.

Attachment & Separation Anxiety in Babies

As a natural part of attachment, babies will also begin to exhibit fear. They may become anxious when confronted with people other than their primary caregiver, including family members, other children, or strangers. This is a normal developmental phase, and does not indicate the

Nine month old infant playing peek a boo with mother behind chair
Photo Halee Sherwood|CC

kind of social personality the child will eventually develop. A fear response simply means that the person is unfamiliar and the child is reacting with caution.

Parents often expect their children will continue to shift from person to person as they did when they were younger. By understanding this fear as a normal development stage, parents can provide the child with empathy and emotional support.

Separation anxiety in babies is also common at this stage. Many babies around 10 months will begin to cry when their caregiver leaves the room. Babies this age have not developed the concept of “object permanence” — they are afraid if they cannot see you, you are gone for good.

Babies are afraid if they cannot see you, you are gone forever.

Separation games like peek-a-boo and hide-and-seek can help with this. It may help ease separation anxiety later if you begin introducing another caregiver occasionally during the first six months of your baby’s life. Babies may feel more comfortable with separation if it is part of their routine.
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If your child does suffer from separation anxiety, try to make leaving as short and sweet as possible. Say good-bye with a smile and a hug and step outside the door. Then come back five minutes later to peek-in on your child, standing outside the door or perhaps looking in through a window. Your child may have already quieted down and adjusted to the situation. However, if over the course of a week or two, they do not calm down within 10 minutes or so, you can reconsider choosing an alternative caregiver environment.

Anger & Frustration in Babies

Babies also begin to show emotions of joy and anger. These are natural responses to happiness and frustration. For example, when you restrict your child’s movement while changing their diaper or buckling up the car seat, you’ll see frustration turn into anger, with kicking arms and legs.

Infant boy crying upset on grass
Photo Lianne Viau|CC

Babies feel frustrated because they are totally dependent on someone else, and often we do not know what they want. They soon learn that anger can prompt action. Anger is an enabling emotion, motivating infants to master frustrating events. Now is the time to start teaching your child about anger by letting them experience it and resisting the temptation to remove the frustration. Babies need to learn about anger in a safe, protected environment.

It’s never too early to help them learn about feelings by giving the feelings a name and acknowledging their feelings, “It looks like you are angry, but we need to change your diaper now.”
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