Causes of the crisis of the first year of life

In modern psychology, mental development is considered as a cyclical process consisting of stable and crisis periods. Quantitative changes occur slowly, gradually. 

A qualitative leap in development – the crisis – lasts 3-6 months, ends with the appearance of tumors that form a more complex relationship between a person and the environment. Internal experiences, needs, promptings are rebuilt. 

The 1 year crisis is experienced by children from 9 months to 1.5 years. Manifestations can be barely noticeable or pronounced. Heavy, prolonged symptoms are common in families with an authoritarian parenting style, overprotection .

Causes of the crisis of the first year of life

One year old child makes the first attempts to walk. The surrounding space expands, separation from parents occurs. The baby is aware of the ability to move independently, without the help of mom, dad. The first words appear, speech changes the character of relations with others, is directed towards mastering objective actions. On the one hand, external changes – walking, speech, manipulative actions – are accompanied by the emergence of new qualities of the psyche.

Formed the need to be independent, to study the space, objects. On the other hand, the attitude of adults towards the child does not change. There are no conditions for the manifestation of autonomy, the activity of the baby is stopped by prohibitions, precautions, habitual methods of the parent’s actions.


The basis of the age crisis is the contradiction between the established relationships with people, forms of activity and the changing needs and abilities of the child. Psychic metamorphoses are based on physiological changes – the maturation of brain structures, the restructuring of the functional systems of the central nervous system. Up to 9–10 months, the infant’s body is regulated by biological rhythms: needs naturally arise, are expressed with discontent, are catered to by adults.

By the first year, speech becomes an instrument of self-order, but is not yet sufficiently developed for controlling behavior. Biological rhythms lose their organizing function. At the same time, walking and manipulative actions are formed, a space of objects opens, which act as sources for satisfying needs (before the crisis, the source is an adult).

Symptoms of the crisis of the first year of life

Manifestations are observed in children from 10-12 months. Negative reactions are provoked by the relations of the previous stage of development – the mother sends the child, tries to feed, put to bed, put on clothes for a walk, use the stroller. Such situations, prohibitions, refusals of adults limit autonomy. Affect increases sharply, the behavior corresponds to an earlier period of development (regresses). The child cries loudly, screams, falls, bangs his fists, stamps his feet. With frequent emotional attacks, appetite is disturbed, sleep becomes restless, and well-being deteriorates.

Actions, motives, needs of a child are determined by immediate situations, images, and representations of memory. Whims, tantrumsmay occur suddenly: I saw a hat – I wanted to go outside, my mother brought a towel – she started to cry. The child begins to perceive himself as the subject (source) of his own desires. Possessing curiosity, shows excessive activity, mobility, although coordination and accuracy are not developed. The kid reaches for electrical appliances, outlets, dishes, books and other unexplored objects.

Obstacles on the way (restrictions, prohibitions of adults) provoke an emotional outburst. Negativism is expressed by reactions of protest, refusal to perform the usual rituals of eating, laying in bed, washing, dressing. The more rules that prevent independence, the more pronounced are the symptoms of the crisis period.


The crisis of the first year of life belongs to the “small” age-related crises, it proceeds relatively easily, it finishes independently. Complications are extremely rare, represented by emotional and behavioral abnormalities. They are formed during a protracted crisis period, when temporary reactions turn into stable patterns of behavior. The reason is the lack of plasticity of education. Example: forced enforcement of hygienic procedures reinforces the negative attitude of the child towards them, refusal reactions occur during early childhood, pre-school age.


The crisis of the first year occurs in a family setting, its manifestations are noticed by parents, close relatives. Usually, a difficult period is experienced without the intervention of specialists, with pronounced symptoms, a prolonged course, the help of a psychologist and a psychiatrist is required. Diagnosis is carried out by clinical methods.

Are used:

  • Conversation. It clarifies the history, the presence of comorbidities, especially the material and living conditions of life, methods of education. Differentiation of manifestations of crisis from the symptoms of neuropsychiatric pathologies is carried out on the basis of their duration, severity, dynamics.
  • Observation . The specialist draws attention to the peculiarities of interaction between the parent and the child, assesses the emotional, behavioral reactions of the baby. The crisis is characterized by the difficulties of establishing productive contact, negativism, protests, refusals, crying
Recommendations for the crisis of the first year of life

Crisis periods are natural stages of development. The child does not need special treatment. Parents are shown psychological counseling. The specialist talks about the ways of behavior, building relationships, the organization of the day regimen, the leisure of a child in crisis. Adults need to recognize the new needs, the growing independence of the baby, learn to cooperate with him on the basis of substantive actions.

General list of recommendations:

  • Compliance with the regime of the day. An important neoplasm of the crisis is the adoption by the child of borders and rules. The daily routine is a system that provides certainty of actions, rituals. Following the regime, the baby grows healthy, emotionally balanced, less capricious.
  • Creating a developing environment. It is important to organize the space of the apartment in accordance with the age characteristics of the child – to ensure the convenience of walking (flooring, handrails), to pick up various items in function, texture, shape, objects for manipulation. These measures will allow to realize independence.
  • Providing household security. It is necessary to remove sharp, breakable, valuable items, to hide electrical sockets, wires. Lack of sources of danger – the reasons for prohibitions – will reduce the frequency of emotional negative attacks.
  • Ability to show independence. It is necessary to allow the child to perform daily rituals himself, despite the carelessness and slowness. Assistance should be provided by the offer of cooperation.
  • Availability of feedback. Poor language development does not allow the child to properly express desires. You can not ignore attempts to establish contact. It is important to understand the baby, and if it is impossible to fulfill the request, then explain why.
  • Following the system of prohibitions. Parents must agree, abide by the rules of conduct. Any “necessary”, “impossible” – to justify, carry out under any circumstances.
  • Non-violence. With whims, refusals, the child’s attention should be switched by play, poem, song, story. Violent actions of an adult – a direct provocation of crying, crying, hysterics.
  • Show respect, love. To build cooperation is necessary through positive emotions, friendly attitude. It is important to show the child love, praise. Authoritarianism leads to the formation of passivity, cowardice, and lack of initiative.

The forecast is always favorable. The crisis of the first year continues for several months, ending with qualitative changes in the mental sphere – the emergence of objective activity, speech, and the formation of independence. It is impossible to prevent a crisis period, since it is a stage of development, and not a pathological condition.

Adhering to the recommendations of psychologists about the qualitative change in the relationship with the child, the proper organization of the environment and mode, you can reduce the negative manifestations in the behavior, emotions of the child, reduce their duration and frequency.

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