Babies and young children thrive when they are cared for by adults that are “crazy about them!” (Bronfenbrenner, 1976 1). Responsive relationships with consistent primary caregivers help build positive attachments that support healthy social-emotional development. These relationships form the foundation of mental health for infants, toddlers and preschoolers.
“Infant mental health” is defined as the healthy social and emotional development of a child from birth to 3 years; and a growing field of research and practice devoted to the:
Promotion of healthy social and emotional development;
Prevention of mental health problems; and
Treatment of the mental health problems of very young children in the context of their families.2
The Still Face paradigm, designed by Edward Tronick, is an experimental procedure for studying infant social and emotional development. During the experiment, an infant and a parent interact playfully before the parent suddenly stops responding and looks away. After a short period, the parent reengages with the infant. The infant’s reaction to a suddenly unresponsive parent and his or her behavior when the parent resumes interaction, have been used to study many aspects of early social and emotional development.