Infant Research has made great progress during the last decades. Today, we know much more about how the infant’s brain is developing, how early interactions with the parents get started, and how the baby takes an active part in interactions with the parents. Here, I will only give you a few examples research on the child’s emotional development. If you look at the video below, you will see an interesting experiment by Professor Campos at Berkeley University, USA.
The baby is about to crawl on a Plexiglass board above a visual cliff. He knows that he might “fall down”, and therefore he moves cautiously. The mother is standing opposite to him. By instruction from the experiment leader, she will show either a fearful or an encouraging face. If she looks fearful, the baby will hesitate and will not crawl out on the Plexiglass board. He will signal “Mummy, lift me up and take care of me!” If she looks encouraging instead, he will quite freely and happily crawl out on the board. His eagerness at making new discoveries is thus affected by the mother’s emotional signals. We might guess that two divergent images are created in his internal world.: “She is supporting me. I am a big and competent child” and “She is quite scared. Life seems to be a risky business”.
Ever since the days of Freud, we analysts have been stating that the human being is guided by an effort to seek pleasure and to avoid unpleasure. The psychoanalyst Melanie Klein stated that when the baby experiences “Mummy is supporting me”, the baby creates what Klein called an internal image of the Good Mother. The opposite experience leads rather to an internal image of the Bad Mother. Do you think this a black and white description? Certainly! That is how things are in the baby’s internal world.
Today’s neuroscientists are beginning to understand which parts of the brain work with these kinds of processes.