Keith Hunt - Christian Child-Rearing - Page Eight   Restitution of All Things

  Home Previous Page Next Page

Christian Child-Rearing #8

Infants to 15 months

We continue with the book "Christian Child-rearing and
Personality Development."


(Birth to Fifteen Months)

A.   The importance of infancy

     Dr.Theodore Lidz, Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry
at Yale University School of Medicine, states quite emphatically
that "during no other period of life is the person so transformed
both physically and developmentally" as during infancy.l  He
further states that "no part of his life experience will be as
solidly incorporated in the individual, become so irrevocably a
part of him, as his infancy."2  Lack of physical care can result
in ill health, wasting away, and death. Lack of social nurturing
will result in distortions of emotional development and stunting
of intellectual growth.
     Even an improper diet can influence the infant's ultimate
intellectual capacity, since all of the nerve and brain cells a
person will ever have are produced by six months of age.3  After
six months of age, brain cells may continue to enlarge, but no
more new cells will ever be formed. That's why the infant needs
plenty of protein, which he gets primarily from milk, during
those first six months of life. Many mothers in the ghetto
bottle-feed their babies; since they can't afford much milk, they
put things like Kool-Aid

[1. Theodore Lid, "The Person," p.117. 
2. Ibid.
3. Mohsen Ziai, ed., "Pediatrics," p.48.]

into their babies' bottles, and the result is fewer brain cells
for their children for the rest of their lives. Programs like
Head Start are usually too late. During those first six months
the infant's physical needs predominate. During the remainder of
his infancy, socialization and affection are just as important as
his physical needs.
     Another reason why infancy is so important is that during
the fifteen months of infancy, the child's ultimate potential for
developing basic trust is established, depending primarily on how
trustworthy his mother is in meeting his basic needs. What makes
things difficult is that a mother can give her infant too little
or too much support. The human infant is among the most helpless
and dependent of all of God's creatures. Too little support can
leave the infant struggling for emotional survival, whereas too
much support can lead the infant to become overly dependent. Dr.
Gary Collins notes that development during infancy is
"characterized by rapid physical growth, initial perceptual and
intellectual development, a learning to cope with new
experiences, early social and emotional development, and the
beginnings of personality formation."4  I think you can
understand from these facts the tremendous importance of infancy.

B.   The importance of stimulation and experience in infancy.

1. The four basic drives.

     Human beings have four basic drives:    (1) tissue drives,
such as the need for oxygen, water, and food; (2) sexual drives;
(3) defensive drives - primarily fear and aggression, which
Walter B. Cannon labelled the "fight or flight" mechanism; and
drives for stimulation and activity.

2. Spitz's study on marasmus.

     During World War 2, a number of infants were placed in a
European foundling home. Their mothers were allowed to stay with
them during the first three months of life, during which time the
infants developed normally. Then, apart from their mothers, they
were cared for by nurses at a ratio of one nurse per eight to
twelve infants. The infants were fed well, and got good medical
attention, but received very little stimulation in the way of
being handled by the busy nurses. As a result of this lack of

[4. Gary Collins, "Man in Transition," p.89.]

30 percent of them died of malnutrition within the first year.
Most of the survivors could not stand, walk, or talk by the age
of four, and had become permanently and severely mentally
retarded.5  This condition, in which an infant refuses to eat and
becomes more and more emaciated, is known as marasmus (pronounced
ma-raz-mus). It is also called failure to thrive, and occurs
frequently, even in America. Research studies show that many of
the parents of infants suffering from marasmus are physically
abusive, with a high incidence of alcoholic fathers. Many of
these infants have to be legally taken out of their homes, to be
reared in foster homes instead, if caught in time, and if given a
lot of physical stimulation, some of these infants recover and
may even live relatively normal lives thereafter.6

3. Duke's "TV Kid."

     I know of a very small, emaciated six-year-old boy whose
mother worked long hours and left him every day with his maternal
grandmother. Unfortunately, the grandmother couldn't tolerate
children, so she put him in a crib every day from infancy, and
put the crib in front of a TV set in a small room with nothing
else and nobody else in it. The child's only company was that TV
set, except when the grandmother brought in his food and laid it
in his crib. By the age of six, the boy was very poorly
developed, emaciated, and the size of an average three-year-old.
He could not talk, except for repeating TV commercials, which he
did over and over again. When his child psychiatrist at Duke
Hospital asked him questions, he would spout off another TV
commercial quite accurately. Various people worked with the lad
extensively, but he was permanently handicapped both physically
and mentally. The mother was rehabilitated and the child was
eventually returned to her custody. He'll probably be nicknamed
"The TV Kid." Unfortunately, this is not a rarity in America
today. I have seen numerous unmarried mothers on welfare with as
many as sixteen or eighteen children. They were drawing large
welfare checks, while their children were out roaming the
streets. I remember

[5. Rene A. Spin, "Hospitalism: An Inquiry into the Genesis of
Psychiatric Conditions in Early Childhood."
6. Sue L. Evans, et al., "Failure to Thrive. A Study of 45
Children and Their Families." See also P.S.Goldman, "The
Relationship Between the Amount of Stimulation in Infancy and
Subsequent Emotionality."]

driving through downtown Memphis close to midnight one time and
seeing groups of very young children playing kick the can. I wept
for them.

4. Animal studies.

     The importance of stimulation, and of the right kinds of
stimulation, has also been demonstrated in various animals. Dogs,
for instance, that were restricted as pups by being raised in
cages, developed striking abnormalities of behavior by the time
they reached maturity.7  When these same dogs were allowed to
leave their cages as young adults, they exhibited excessive
behavioral arousal - meaning that they became overly excited by
anything new in their environment. They went into whirling fits
so violent that they frequently would break the skin on their
heads against the walls. They also exhibited impairment of
selective perceptual processes - meaning that they ran around the
room from one object to another, rarely showing sustained
attention to any single object. They also had considerable
difficulty getting along with normally reared dogs that were
placed in their area. Another interesting study showed that rats
which were handled daily, early in life, had a much more vigorous
antibody response to infections than did rats deprived of
physical handling early in life.8  And so in the animal kingdom,
as well as in man, the adults emotional condition and personality
are strongly influenced by the amount and type of stimulation
received during infancy.9

C. Mother-substitutes.

1. Mothers in the American labor force.

     With 40 percent of American mothers currently in the labor
force, either part-time or full-time, "mother substitutes"
becomes an even more important subject than it already was. One.
research study showed that "the loss of mother is disturbing to
an infant and produces a searching, agitated response. Substitute
mothering serves to relieve the distress, the extent depending in
part on the degree of mothering provided and in part on the
specific nature

[7. R. Melzack, "The Role of Early Experience in Emotional
Arousal;" p.721. 
8. G.F.Solomon, "Emotions, Stress, the Central Nervous System,
and Immunity."
9. Goldman, "Stimulation in Infancy;" p.649.]

of the tie to mother.10  Further, if the loss of the infant's
mother is hot relieved, "the infant soon lapses into a state of
severe depression and withdrawal that appears to conserve his
resources and minimize the danger of injury."11

2. Piaget's findings.

     Some of Jean Piaget's studies indicate that adequate mother
substitutes are all right the first six months of life or so, but
that on the social level the mother is very specifically needed
by about seven months of age.12  The infant then needs his own
mother for security and socialization, or there will be a
variable extent of permanent emotional and intellectual damage.
Before the child is seven or eight months of age, another
competent person can be substituted for the mother without any
serious consequences, but not very readily after that age.

3. Unconditional acceptance.

     Dr. Eugene Mcdonald states that "the mother's unconditional
acceptance of the infant is the precursor to healthy
self-acceptance which enables him to make the most of himself
within the frame work of his personal strengths and limitations,
both physical and mental."13 He adds further that "the child who
has been unconditionally loved has a good conscience, experiences
normal anxiety, and is relatively free in his choice of
action."14  On the other hand, the infant who has been
conditionally loved, as he grows older, "has a restrictive or a
'bad' conscience and experiences undue quantities of anxiety,
hostility, and guilt which engender various forms of compulsive
behavior of a social or antisocial character."15  By the time a
child is old enough to go to school, most of his character
structure has already been established. An emotionally healthy,
reflective child will be greatly enriched by this new contact
with peers, teachers, and information. However, the anxiety-laden
child who fears the unknown will feel threatened by his new
interpersonal and environmental relationships. Dr.Mcdonald

[10. I.C.Kaufman, et ad., "Effects of Separation from Mother on
the Emotional Behavior of Infant Monkeys," p.695.
11. Ibid.
12. John E. Peters, "Lectures on Piaget."
18. Eugene Mcdonald, "Emotional Growth of the Child," p.74. 
14. Ibid.
15. Ibid.]

has wisely remarked, "The person who reaches adulthood with the
feeling that life has been kind to him wants to give something of
himself back to life."16  I would strongly advise those of you
who are working mothers, especially if your children are still
infants, to quit your jobs. Don't be afraid to deprive your
infants of material things if you can give them yourselves
instead. I have a special place in my heart for handicapped and
retarded children, and I believe they, even more than
non-handicapped children, need their mothers unconditional love
and acceptance to prepare them for what they will have to face
when they become old enough to go to school.

4. Hospitalized infants.

     Another group of children who especially need their mothers
are children who have to be hospitalized. Studies have shown that
young children whose mothers don't come and spend a lot of time
with them in the hospital have a significantly higher mortality

5. Over-indulgence versus deprivation.

     I want to remind you once again that meeting the infant's
desires can be overdone or underdone. Overly-indulged infants
become inappropriately optimistic and expect the world to look
out for them when they reach adulthood. Deprived infants have a
deepseated pessimism, become hostile and resentful when their
needs are not met, and tend to give up easily.18

6. Harlow's monkeys!

     I want to end this section on mother substitutes by telling
you about Harlow's monkeys. Harry and Margaret Harlow are a
husband and wife research team who conducted an interesting and
by now fairly well-known study on mother substitution in monkeys.
They took a group of young monkeys away from their mothers, and
put them in areas where they could choose between two imitation
mothers. One "mother" was made out of wire, and had a baby bottle
attached which was kept full of milk. The other "mother" was a
soft, terry cloth mother, but with no feeding device attached.
Interestingly, the monkeys would go get milk from

16. Ibid., p.79.
17. Lidz, "The Person," p.150. See also M. Lynch, et al., "Family
Unit in Children's Psychiatric Hospital:"
18. Lidz, "The Person," p.151.]

the wire mother, but run to the soft terry cloth mother whenever
they were frightened.19  So be a soft terry cloth mother, not a
wire mother.

D.   Developmental adaptation in Infancy.

1. Six major tasks to which infants must adapt.

     a. Developing responses to environmental stimuli.
     b. Controlling normal body functions, such as feeding,
     elimination, and sleeping.
     c. Adapting to physical illnesses.
     d. Adapting to major behavioral changes, such as weaning.
     e. Adapting to more and more social expectations imposed by
     f. Adapting to rapidly developing modes of mobility
     (crawling, standing, walking, falling).

2. Problems of family mobility.

     Gary Collins notes that the typical problem areas of infants
and their mothers center around "feeding, weaning, sleeping,
thumbsucking, excessive crying and, later, toilet training.20  He
mentions that in years gone by, the mother gained support,
encouragement and advice on these matters from experienced and
sympathetic relatives, but this has all changed with the current
mobility of families. In the United States approximately one
family in every four moves each year. Relatives are now often far
away, and the young parents who reside in relatively unfamiliar
communities must depend more on books and articles - some of
which give conflicting and confusing advice.21

3. Mountains or molehills?

     Parents frequently make mountains out of molehills, worrying
about things that are absolutely normal - especially with the
first child. For instance, thumb-sucking, genital play and
"security blankets"

[19. Harry F. Harlow and Margaret K. Harlow, "The Affectional
Systems in Behavior of Non-Human Primates."
20. Collins, "Man in Transition," p.4. 
21. Ibid.]

should all be expected as normal ways in which infants gain
comfort. Depriving the infant of such gratification may result
in, frustration and increased insecurity. It's best to ignore
these things, especially in infancy.

4. Stress is good for you (and your child too)!

     Parents are also frequently overly concerned about various
minor stresses injuring the mental health of their infants, when
in reality a degree of stress is beneficial to the infant.22  Dr.
Theodore Lidz states that "overprotection or development in an
extremely stable and homogeneous setting is likely to produce
colorless individuals. As everyday experience often shows,
difficulty can strengthen one; trauma can produce defenses that
can serve well in later emergencies; deprivations can harden: "23
So it's all a matter of degrees again. On telling me some of the
stresses they have been through, some patients are surprised when
I respond, "Great! Stress is good for you! It will help you to

5. Sensory-motor stage of development.

     The neurological stages of development in infancy are best
described by Jean Piaget, the Swiss psychologist. Piaget calls
infancy the sensory-motor stage of development, since it is
primarily a preverbal stage during which the infant gains sensory
and motor skills. During the first month of life, the infant
learns by repetition of his innate reflexes, such as sucking,
crying, blinking, and breathing. During the second month, the
infant learns that he has voluntary control over some of these
automatic responses. He can stick his thumb in his mouth, stare,
suck, and make noises at will now, During the next six or seven
months he will learn to play, show emotion, imitate, and spend
longer periods of time investigating various objects by sticking
them in his mouth and rubbing them. Toward the end of the first
year he is able to crawl around and may even be starting to
walk He tries to experience everything available. This means his
parents must make the house childproof. The average American home
contains about seventeen poisonous substances or medications that
an exploring infant could get into, such as furniture polish,
aspirins, insecticides, and prescription medications in

[22. William Reese, "Lecture to medical students, University of
Arkansas Medical Center."
28. Lidz, "The Person," p.88.]

mothers' purses. The major cause of death in infancy, is
accidents, including household accidents and overdosing. A friend
of mine treated a mother for depression after her infant son died
from drinking furniture polish while he was supposed to be
napping. It can happen to anyone. Yet parents should be aware
that infants who grow up in homes where they are constantly
getting their hands slapped for getting into things
tend to become adults who are rigid in their thinking and fearful
of exploring new ideas.
     The average one-year-old can say about one or two words,
like dada and mama, although some can say quite a few more and
others don't start speaking. until the end of infancy. The rate
of development is no prediction of ultimate I.Q., unless it is
extremely slow. Albert Einstein was said to be a late developer,
for instance. So don't rush your infant-just accept him, enjoy
him, and give him a wide variety of experiences. He'll move on to
each stage when he is neurologically ready to do so. A fear of
strangers also develops toward the end of the first year, and at
about a year, children also show a fear of animals. Some children
may also fear an expanse of water, like the ocean, when they see
it for the first time. They learn a fear of heights by experience
- after falling off the couch a couple of times.24

6. Characteristics of development.

In summary, note that development is (1) orderly and in
sequences, (2) uneven - meaning that it occurs in spurts, (3)
unique - meaning that no two children develop at exactly the same
rate, and (4) the result of both maturation and learning.25

E.   Environment versus heredity.

1. The pendulum swings!

     Debates have gone on for years over the roles of environment
versus heredity. Two generations ago, there was an overemphasis
on heredity-a person was a criminal because he inherited a crim-
inal mind and had a criminally-shaped head, and similar
foolishness. This foolish thinking continues today in the form of
astrology. The past generation generally blamed nearly everything
on environment

[24. Peters, "Lectures on Piaget." See also bibliography
references 507-15. 
25. Collins, "Man in Transition," pp.26-28.]

and ignored hereditary aspects. But with the volumes of research
data that are pouring in every day, scientists are now raking a
good look at both heredity and environment, because most aspects
of the human body and mind, such as eventual personality, are
influenced by both hereditary and environmental factors.

2. Are children really born princes and princesses?

     I was once particularly amused by a guest speaker at Duke
University Medical Center. He was a liberal theologian who had
graduated from Harvard. He was active in civil rights in the late
60s, and was a teaching member of the transactional analysis
movement. He told us that he agreed with Eric Berne, who taught
that children are born princes and princesses, and environment
makes frogs out of them."26  He said that children are born with
a good nature, rather than a sinful nature, and that their
parents make frogs out of them. If children are born good, my
children must have received unfair treatment when the genes were
passed around, because they could lie before they could talk.

3. What the Bible says about your child's nature.

     Children are not born with good natures. They are born with
sinful natures, and we parents have to work hard to set good
examples if we are to teach them to be good, which is against
their nature. God's Word tells us that "foolishness is bound in
the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it
far from him" (Prov.22:15). God is saying here that we inherit a
sinful (foolish) nature, and that by discipline we learn to be

(No, Prov.22:15 is a "general statement" - many children are not
foolish, and many children do not need the rod of correction.
This is just a fact if you have many children or talk to enough
parents with children. Children are born NEUTRAL. Adam and Eve
were created NEUTRAL - neither good or bad. They were not created
to hate God or His ways. They were taught good from bad, good
from evil by God, an outside influence. They chose to do bad,
influenced by another outside influence - Satan. They could then
choose to do good or to do evil. They chose to do evil, well the
Scriptures say Eve was deceived, Adam knew better, hence he is
blamed for bringing the first sin into the world. This truth is
proved by other studies on this Website - Keith Hunt)

     Freedman and Kaplan's psychiatry textbook notes that
"typically the child learns to say no before he learns to
say yes. He knows what he doesn't want long before he is able to
formulate what he does want."27 
     Jean Piaget's studies also show that moral behavior is
learned, and that children are not born with good morals.28 
Young children try to imitate and please their parents to avoid
punishment for being bad, and to gain approval for being good.
Solomon said, "The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child who
gets his own way brings shame to his mother" (Prov.29:15, NASV).

[26. Grant Barnes, "Notes from his grand rounds at Duke
27. Alfred M. Freedman and Harold 1. Kaplan, ads., "Comprehensive
Textbook of Psychiatry," p.580.
28. See Jean Piaget, "The Moral Judgment of the Child."]



Proverbs 29:15 is a "general statement." The Bible is loaded full
with general statements. See on this Website the study called
"General Statements." Many children do not need the rod, a tone
of voice from a parent can bring such children to tearful sorrow.
Have enough children or talk to enough parents with children and
the truth of this is very evident. 
Children are born NEUTRAL, as Adam and Eve were created NEUTRAL -
they were not created with an evil nature. They were created with
a neutral nature with free choice. Good and evil has to be taught
or shown, then humans have the freedom to choose good or evil.
God wants them to choose good - see Deut.30:15-20 and yellow mark
Deut.1:39. There is a time when children know neither the
knowledge between good and evil. They are born neutral. Outside
influences come to them from various teachers, parents,
relatives, friends, the school systems etc. They are NOT born
with evil sinful nature. They are born with the ability to CHOOSE
between good and evil, WHEN they are taught good from evil. They
are not born with bad manners or bad morals. Children must be
taught what is good morals or manners, then they can choose the
way they should go. God wants all to choose the good and way of
life - Keith Hunt)

Entered on this Website August 2007

  Home Previous Page Top of Page Next Page

Navigation List:

Word Search: