Stranger anxiety is an important behavioral development seen in babies where they get upset and distressed on interacting with someone whom they are not familiar to [1,7]. Being an integral part of their emotional and cognitive development, this behavioral gesture is an indication of the baby’s skill in distinguishing the known from the unknown.
Stranger anxiety starts to develop between five and seven months of age, peaking by the twelfth month. Gradually lessening after the eighteenth month, it goes away by the second birthday of your toddler [1,4, 5]. It has been observed that girls display this trait at an earlier age than boys .
Certain factors responsible for triggering the anxious behavior in children includes:
However, this anxiety takes the form of stranger terror when children get extremely agitated and panicked on seeing a new person. They display their annoyance through severe screaming coupled with back arching also having a fearful and wary look in the presence of the stranger. Consult your pediatrician or any experienced professional in such extreme cases as it may hamper your child’s all round development.
Several research and studies have been carried out to understand the psychology behind stranger anxiety. By the seventh month, the infants develop their comfort zones, feeling secured with someone whom they regularly see. Therefore, on confronting an unknown person, they become unhappy and anxious.
Psychologists have further found that stranger anxiety depends on the temperament of the infant. The attachment a child has with his family is one of the responsible factors. Studies have shown that children in orphanages mingled well with strangers who were affectionate towards them. On the other hand, those who had great bonding with their parents got more distressed on seeing unfamiliar faces [9, 10].
Infants develop a world of their own, and any unfamiliar face seems to be an intruder into their cozy, comfortable surroundings. Therefore, they are to be handled sensitively to help them overcome their initial fears and apprehensions paving towards a healthy development.
Published on March 11th 2015 by Pregmed Editorial Team.
Article was last reviewed on 31st July 2015.