Infant’s Characteristics
(Vinod Anand)

The baby himself plays a big part in determining the course of relationships with people. Some of his effects are obvious, others subtle. The uniqueness of each infant can be appreciated by considering the interplay of appearance, sex, and temperament, which are only some of the categories under which human beings can be described.

1. Appearance. Looks can make a difference in how a baby is accepted and regarded. Although this statement is more in the realm of common belief than 208 infants’ scientific fact, it is important if true. Not only is the matter of beauty or good looks involved here, but of an appearance that suggests something significant to the parents: a family resemblance causing pride or the expectation that the new baby will act like Uncle Joe or like his big brother; fragility, including delicate handling, or sturdiness, inciting rough play; a characteristic thought to predict a personality trait, such as red hair indicating temper or a weak chin indicating weak character.
2. Sex. According to whether the newborn is a boy or a girl, the baby is immediately placed in some categories and removed from others. The infant’s sex determines many of the feelings, attitudes, and actions of people. Cultures and families vary widely in the ways in which they interpret and value sex roles. The Shah of Iran divorced a wife he loved (or so the newspapers said) because she bore him no sons, even though she produced daughters. His duty to perpetuate his line, for the good of his country, was a value above and beyond love for his wife. Imagine the welcome a son would receive in such a family and the disappointment that would mount with the birth of each daughter! Followers of religions like Hinduism and Confucianism want sons in order to carry out religious duties toward ancestors and to assure their own religious fulfillment. Therefore the birth of the first son is an occasion of boundless joy and relief from anxiety. Sons are less essential in the West than in Asia. Some Americans prefer daughters. Religion and property are not involved, and daughters are considered easier to bring up. Americans may try not to form a sex preference before a baby is born, realizing that it makes for better relationships to be happy with their offspring no matter which sex it is.
Adults treat boy and girl babies differently. An obvious reason for differential treatment is that adults have different expectations of boys and girls and that they are beginning to teach sex role. Research on both human and monkey infants, however, indicates biological influences also at work, in the form of the infant’s own characteristics. Animal research, especially on primates, often gives useful leads for research on humans. Data from several studies at the University of Wisconsin Primate Laboratory have shown differences between interactions of mother monkeys with male infants and mother monkeys with female infants. In the first 3 months of life, males did more mouthing, cuffing, slapping, clasping, and pulling the fur of the mothers, and as they got older, this behavior increased. As the females got older, they decreased in clasping and body contact and increased in cooing and exploration with their eyes, mouth, and hands. The mothers of female infants embraced and restrained them more, withdrew from them less, and groomed them more. Mothers of male infants played with them more and tended to be more aggressive and rejecting. The author concluded that the mothers protected the females more, encouraging them to maintain close attachments, while the males were pushed into independence and wide contacts with the other members of the troop. Thus we see the infant’s own characteristics playing a part in development of interactions. Turning to the human scene, boy and girl babies can be seen exerting different influences on their mothers during the first 3 months of life. Boys slept less and cried more and were more irritable than girls. Mothers held boys more than girls, about 27 minutes longer during an 8-hour period at 3 months, for example. As well as being more irritable, males seemed to respond less satisfactorily to mothers’ efforts to console the. The data indicated that mothers responded more readily to girls’ cries, since they had been more successful in quieting girls.

Two samples of babies examined at 6 and 13 months showed sex differences in their toy preferences, responses to frustration, and interactions with their mothers. At 13 months, each baby was placed in an observation room with toys. The mother, who sat on a chair in the corner of the room, was told to watch the baby’s play and to respond as she wished. The floor of the room was divided into 12 squares, permitting recording of the child’s position for each 15 seconds of time. When removed from their mothers’ laps’ girls were more reluctant to leave and more often returned immediately. When playing, they stayed closer to their mothers. Girls spent more time touching their mothers, looking at them, and vocalizing to them than did boys. When a barrier was placed between the infant and the mother, with the toys on the mother’s side, sex differences in response to stress were seen. There is a typical difference between boys and girls. Boys were more likely to try to get around the barrier, girls to stand in the middle crying and motioning for help from the mother. Differences in play were seen, also. Girls sat more and spent more time with blocks, pegboard, dog and cat (the only toys with faces). Boys were more active and played more with the mallet, lawn- mower, and non-toys, such as the doorknob and electric outlets. Girls used more fine muscle coordination while boys used more large muscles and were more vigorous. There is a typical sex differences in choice of toys and play behavior. Data on mother—infant interaction at 6 months showed the mothers touched girls more than boys. When related to the baby’s behavior at 13 months, there was a direct relationship between mothers touching boys at 6 months and boys touching mothers at 13 months. That is, the mothers who did the most touching at 6 months had Sons who did the most touching at 13 months. For girls, the picture was different. A medium amount of touching by the mother was correlated with a medium amount of touching by the daughter, but mothers who did little or much touching were likely to have daughters who touched them a great deal. Corroboration of mothers’ differential treatment is found in observations at beaches, where mothers touched girl babies more than boy babies and in a description of mothers in the feeding situation. “Come and get it” typified the attitude toward boys, who were permitted considerable autonomy in establishing their own rhythms and in starting and stopping. “Mother knows best” was the key to the prevalent attitude toward girls, indicating that they were supposed to conform and fit into the mother’s way of doing. Mothers tended to hover over girls, to fiddle with their clothing, and to give them a great deal more tactile stimulation than boys received. Given less opportunity to move, to explore and to choose, restricted in expression and yet stimulated, girls must discharge more emotion inward. Here could be a contribution to feminine passivity and masculine activity. From data on infant—mother interaction, it seems that masculine and feminine behavior patterns are built from certain early experiences of the infant which are the results of his own spontaneous behavior shaping the behavior of his parents who are also influenced by cultural and personal notions of sex-appropriate behavior.

Author's Bio: 


Born in 1939, and holding Master’s Degree both in Mathematics (1959) and Economics (1961), and Doctorate Degree in Economics (1970), Dr. Vinod K.Anand has about forty five years of teaching, research, and project work experience in Economic Theory (both micro and macro), Quantitative Economics, Public Economics, New Political Economy, and Development Economics with a special focus on economic and social provisions revolving around poverty, inequality, and unemployment issues, and also on informal sector studies. His last assignment was at the National University of Lesotho (Southern Africa) from 2006 to 2008. Prior to that he was placed as Professor and Head of the Department of Economics at the University of North-West in the Republic of South Africa, and University of Allahabad in India, Professor at the National University of Lesotho, Associate Professor at the University of Botswana, Gaborone in Botswana, and at Gezira University in Wad Medani, Sudan, Head, Department of Arts and Social Sciences, Yola in Nigeria, Principal Lecturer in Economics at Maiduguri University in Nigeria, and as Lecturer at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria in Nigeria. Professor Anand has by now published more than 80 research papers in standard academic journals, authored 11 books, supervised a number of doctoral theses, was examiner for more than twenty Ph.D. theses, and has wide consultancy experience both in India and abroad, essentially in the African continent. This includes holding the position of Primary Researcher, Principal Consultant etc. in a number of Research Projects sponsored and funded by Universities, Governments, and International Bodies like, USAID, IDRC, and AERC. His publications include a variety of themes revolving around Economic Theory, New Political Economy, Quantitative Economics, Development Economics, and Informal Sector Studies. His consultancy assignments in India, Nigeria, Sudan, Botswana, and the Republic of South Africa include Non-Directory Enterprises in Allahabad, India, Small Scale Enterprises in the Northern States of Nigeria, The Absolute Poverty Line in Sudan, The Small Scale Enterprises in Wad Medani, Sudan, Micro and Small Scale Enterprises in Botswana, The Place of Non-Formal Micro-Enterprises in Botswana, Resettlement of a Squatter Community in the Vryburg District of North West Province in the Republic of South Africa, Trade and Investment Development Programme for Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises: Support for NTSIKA in the Republic of South Africa, and Development of the Manufacturing Sector in the Republic of South Africa’s North West Province: An Approach Based on Firm Level Surveys. Professor Anand has also extensively participated in a number of conferences, offered many seminars, participated in a number of workshops, and delivered a variety of Refresher Lectures at different venues both in India and abroad. Dr. Anand was placed at the prestigious Indian Institute of Advanced Study (IIAS), Shimla in the State Himachal Pradesh, India as a Fellow from 2001 to 2003, and had completed a theoretical and qualitative research project/monograph on the Employment Profile of Micro Enterprises in the State of Himachal Pradseh, India.