Does jealousy begin in the cradle?

Babies will holler to compete for mom's attention well before the `Terrible Twos,' York professor says

October 21, 2008

Andrea Gordon


New research links using a fan in baby's room with lowered risks of sudden infant death syndrome.

ust because they can't sit up or grab a rattle doesn't mean babies are too young to feel jealous, a York University researcher has found.

A study by Maria Legerstee, a psychology professor who specializes in infancy and theory of the mind, shows that even at 3 months old, babies will kick and holler when mom's attention turns to someone else. And the behaviour, she says, is nothing to worry about. "It's a normal and appropriate reaction."

Legerstee's research is contrary to earlier developmental theories, which have suggested that jealousy and other "complex emotions" are synonymous with the "Terrible Twos" and first emerge during the second year of life.

"Jealousy is the fear of losing a beloved to someone else," Legerstee said in an interview yesterday. In the past 20 years, infant researchers have established that young babies know the difference between themselves and others, and that they form a social attachment to their mother or primary caregiver.

"These are preconditions for babies to feel jealous," she said.

Jealousy hasn't received much study and has mostly been looked at in the context of sibling rivalry, as a pathological emotion.

Legerstee's research will be included in the 2009 Handbook of Jealousy: Theories, Principles and Multidisciplinary Approaches.

The study, conducted in 2006, involved 45 babies ages 3 months and 6 months with their mothers on hand. When Legerstee interacted with the infants, she got smiles and coos. When she didn't respond to them, they appeared sad and looked away. But when she was busy taking a drink and didn't engage, they had no reaction, suggesting even infants sense motives that guide communicative behaviour.

But the last two scenarios surprised her the most. When Legerstee spoke to the mothers in a monologue, the babies didn't react much. But as soon as their mothers became engaged with her, talking and laughing and excluding them, they reacted strongly. "They got so upset, they would turn around in their seats and vocalize intensely and angrily," Legerstee said.

And what should parents make of this? If a baby shows signs of jealousy, try to interrupt your conversation and pay attention, she said.

"The baby gets fearful. You don't want to accentuate it, but you shouldn't worry about whether it's normal or not it is."


Toronto Star

Commentary by the Ottawa Mens Centre published in the Toronto Star.

Notice the assumption? "mother or primary caregiver", the word father is not mentioned.
The article alludes that baby jealousy is not a problem.

If the "primary caregiver" has a personality disorder, that person will manipulate baby into becoming more anxious at any separation by showing the infant all the wrong body language they 'the primary caregiver' knows will make the infant "anxious" and afraid, not to mention jealous or more to the point afraid of anyone "the primary caregiver" takes a conscious or subconscious dislike to. And thats just the start of parental alienation and most probably another generation of family dysfunction.
Personality disorders start with inappropriate and or aberrant parenting.
These are problems that society puts in the taboo subject and that results in the fatherless of millions of Canadian children.