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Foundation: Relationships with Adults

California Infant/Toddler Learning & Development Foundations.
The development of close relationships with certain adults who provide consistent nurturance
8 months 18 months 36 months

At around eight months of age, children seek a special relationship with one (or a few) familiar adult(s) by initiating interactions and seeking proximity, especially when distressed. (6–9 mos.; Marvin and Britner 1999, 52)

At around 18 months of age, children feel secure exploring the environment in the presence of important adults with whom they have developed a relationship over an extended period of time. When distressed, children seek to be physically close to these adults. (6–18 mos.; Marvin and Britner 1999, 52; Bowlby 1983)

At around 36 months of age, when exploring the environment, from time to time children reconnect, in a variety of ways, with the adult(s) with whom they have developed a special relationship: through eye contact; facial expressions; shared feelings; or conversations about feelings, shared activities, or plans. When distressed, children may still seek to be physically close to these adults. (By 36 mos.; Marvin and Britner 1999, 57)

For example, the child may:

  • Seek comfort from the infant care teacher by crying and looking for him. (7 mos.; Lamb, Bornstein, and Teti 2002, 372)
  • Cry out or follow after a parent when dropped off at the child care program. (6–9 mos.; Ainsworth1967, 4)
  • Lift her arms to be picked up by the special infant care teacher. (8 mos.; Meisels and others 2003, 17; Ainsworth 1967, 5)
  • Crawl toward a parent when startled by a loud noise. (8.5 mos.; Marvin and Britner 1999, 52)
  • Turn excitedly and raise his arms to greet a family member at pick-up time. (8 mos.; Ainsworth 1967, 5)

 

 

For example, the child may:

  • Run in wide circles around the outdoor play area, circling back each time and hug the legs of the infant care teacher before running off again.
  • Snuggle with the special infant care teacher when feeling tired or grumpy.
  • Wave at the special infant care teacher from the top of the slide to make sure he is watching.
  • Follow a parent physically around the room.
  • Play away from the infant care teacher and then move close to him from time to time to check in. (12 mos.; Davies 2004, 10)

 

For example, the child may:

  • Feel comfortable playing on the other side of the play yard away from the infant care teacher, but cry to be picked up after falling down. (24–36 mos.; Lamb, Bornstein, and Teti 2002, 376)
  • Call “Mama!” from across the room while playing with dolls to make sure that the mother is paying attention. (24–36 mos.; Schaffer and Emerson 1964)
  • Call for a family member and look out the window for him after being dropped off at school. (24–36 mos.; Marvin and Britner 1999, 56)
  • Communicate, “This is our favorite part” when reading a funny story with the infant care teacher.
  • Bring the grandmother’s favorite book to her and express, “One more?” to see if she will read one more book, even though she has just said, “We’re all done reading. Now it’s time for nap.” (Teti 1999; 18–36 mos.; Marvin and Britner 1999, 59)
  • Cry and look for the special infant care teacher after falling.
  • Seek the attention of the special infant care teacher and communicate, “Watch me!” before proudly displaying a new skill.

Behaviors leading up to the foundation (4 to 7 months)

During this period, the child may:

  • Hold on to a parent’s sweater when being held. (5 mos.; Marvin and Britner 1999, 51; Ainsworth 1967, 1)
  • Babble back and forth with the infant care teacher. (3–6 mos.;
    Caufield 1995)
  • Be more likely to smile when approached by the infant care teacher than a stranger. (3–6 mos.; Marvin and Britner 1999, 50)
  • Cry when an unfamiliar adult gets too close. (7 mos.; Bronson 1972)

Behaviors leading up to the foundation (9 to 17 months)

During this period, the child may:

  • Cry and ask for a parent after being dropped off in the morning. (9–12 mos.; Lerner and Ciervo 2003)
  • Look for a smile from the infant care teacher when unsure if something is safe. (10–12 mos.; Fogel 2001, 305; Dickstein and Parke 1988; Hirshberg and Svejda 1990)
  • Cling to a parent when feeling ill. (10–11 mos.; Marvin and Britner 1999, 52)

Behaviors leading up to the foundation (19 to 35 months)

During this period, the child may:

  • Say, “I go to school. Mama goes to work,” after being dropped off in the morning.
  • Gesture for one more hug as a parent is leaving for work.

Next Foundation: Interactions with Peers

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Questions:   Early Education and Support Division | itfoundations@cde.ca.gov | 916-322-6233
Last Reviewed: Friday, May 17, 2019
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