Eva Benmeleh is a licensed clinical psychologist with a specialization in the 0-5 age range.
Around five months, two weeks of age, your infant will start to showcase his or her own set of personality traits. With everything from anger and frustration to happiness and surprise, your baby’s awareness of themselves is growing rapidly. What should you look out for? Bundoo Child Psychologist Eva Benmeleh discusses your baby’s unique growth.
Bundoo: Right around month five, babies are really starting to develop their own unique personalities. Which traits should parents expect to see this early on? Sense of humor? Anger?
Eva Benmeleh: Around this time period, a baby’s awareness of his or her own agency is growing at spectacular rates. Grabbing toys, sitting up, and scooting are all major milestones that add to their sense of self. Mirroring your emotions and trying to make you laugh are also key aspects of a baby’s ability to connect to their caregivers and loved ones. Look out for frustration, especially when your baby is trying to reach at something without success. Don’t solve the problems for them; help them out just enough so that they can master the problem. Confusion, anger, sadness, happiness, elation, attachment, and surprise are all emotions expressed at this age and to be taken into consideration when exposing your baby to different surroundings. This is an exciting time for parents to investigate what makes this baby tick and mold their ways of treating and handling their baby in a way that provides mutual respect.
Personality is very complex, with a balance of environmental factors and genetic factors. How much control do you think parents really have over a baby’s developing personality?
All of us are born with our unique temperaments, which are the precursors to personality traits. Temperament affects activity level, persistence, and adaptability to situations. I wouldn’t say that parents have control over their baby’s developing personality, much more than they can affect how their baby feels about his or her temperament. Goodness of fit between baby and parent is crucial for the establishment of a healthy relationship. Having an understanding of what makes your baby happy or upset can also help you foster his or her unique sense of self and help you, as the parent, learn how to deal with your baby when things get difficult.
How can parents tell the difference between a true developing personality trait and a developmental stage, such as fear of loud noises or stranger anxiety?
Take note if the reaction occurs frequently and under what circumstances. How are you dealing with the situation? Are you labeling your baby with a trait or are you looking at this as part of your baby’s process through development? Given your baby’s temperament, some babies may react more strongly to events than others. Many developmental stages, such as stranger anxiety, can turn into traits if parents do not deal with them in the correct manner.
Are there are any developmental red flags with babies this young when it comes to developing their own personalities and behaviors?
At this age, you really want to focus on your baby’s reactions to day-to-day activities. How does your baby react to certain noises, people, and changes in routine? How are you dealing with your baby’s reactions? If you find yourself having a hard time coping, do not hesitate to ask your pediatrician or an infant mental health provider for assistance.
Reviewed by Dr. Sara Connolly, August 2019