New research challenges the previous notion that it takes two years for humans to experience jealousy.
Babies are often thought of as innocent and carefree beings, but recent studies have shown that they can experience jealousy at a much earlier age than previously believed. According to new Canadian research, babies can show signs of jealousy as young as three months old, contradicting the previous theory that it takes two years for humans to first experience this complex emotion.
Signs of Jealousy at an Early Age
Jealousy emerges in babies earlier than expected, surprising many.
What the study found?
The study found that infants as young as three months old can display behaviors indicative of jealousy. Researchers observed that, especially with the presence of a doll, infants as young as six months exhibited signs of jealousy. These behaviors included negative affect, such as angry and sad facial expressions, as well as negative vocalizations.
Babies sought proximity to their mother, displaying behaviors such as prolonged gaze and approach.
Jealousy and Sibling Rivalry
A shocking revelation: Babies as young as five months can exhibit jealousy towards their siblings.
One aspect of jealousy in babies that has captured the attention of researchers is its connection to sibling rivalry.
Some infants as young as five months old can already display signs of jealousy towards their siblings. In particular, these babies may become upset when their sibling tries to touch or get close to their mother. This early display of jealousy emphasizes the importance of understanding and addressing these emotions in young children.
Developmental Milestones and Jealousy
Understanding the age range when jealousy is most intense can help parents navigate this challenging phase.
Research has shown that jealousy emerges most intensely in the majority of children between approximately 1.1 and 2.3 years old.
At this stage:
Children may exhibit more pronounced signs of jealousy, including outbursts of anger or tears, displaying aggression towards siblings or peers, making comparisons between themselves and others, or even withholding affection. It is during this developmental period that children start to recognize and distinguish between social situations that elicit jealousy.
Cognitive Development and Jealousy
Insights into cognitive development shed light on children’s understanding of jealousy.
The findings regarding the age at which jealousy emerges are aligned with cognitive developmental theories proposed by:
Case et al. (1988) and Fischer et al. (1989). These theories suggest that children’s ability to understand and experience jealousy is tied to their cognitive development. As children grow and develop, they become more aware of social interactions and begin to compare themselves to others, leading to the emergence of jealousy.
Addressing Jealousy in Children
Understanding and supporting children through their jealousy phase is crucial for their emotional development.
Recognizing the signs of jealousy in a child is the first step towards addressing and supporting them through this emotional phase.
The intensity and manifestation of jealousy may vary from child to child, there are common signs to look out for, including outbursts of anger or tears, displays of aggression towards siblings or peers, comparisons between themselves and others, or withholding affection.
To help children navigate their feelings of jealousy, parents can employ several strategies:
- Encourage open communication: Create a safe space for children to express their emotions and talk about their feelings of jealousy.
- Foster a sense of belonging: Reinforce the child’s importance and value within the family, emphasizing that their place in the family is secure and loved.
- Promote empathy and understanding: Teach children about empathy and how to understand and relate to others’ feelings. This can help them develop a broader perspective on their own emotions.
- Provide individual attention: Spend quality time with each child individually to ensure they feel valued and loved.
- Foster positive sibling relationships: Encourage activities that promote cooperation and bonding between siblings, fostering a sense of camaraderie rather than competition.
Jealousy in babies is a natural part of their emotional development.
Contrary to previous beliefs, babies can exhibit signs of jealousy as young as three months old. This research challenges the notion that it takes two years for humans to first experience jealousy. Understanding the emergence of jealousy at such an early age can help parents and caregivers support children through this emotionally challenging phase. By recognizing the signs of jealousy, fostering open communication, and promoting empathy and understanding, parents can help their children navigate these complex emotions and foster healthy relationships with their siblings and peers. Remember, it is natural for young children to experience feelings of jealousy towards their new sibling, and it is their way of expressing their feelings of frustration and confusion about their role in your life and their place in the family.