Monday, November 14, 2011

Birth of the Green-Eyed Monster

In last week’s blog posting, veering a long way from baby sign language, I talked about why it’s understandable that an older sibling might be jealous of the addition of a new baby to the family. This week I want to turn the tables a bit and ask, “What about the baby?”. Won’t there come a point when the baby begins to resent having to share Mommy with the older child? In other words, when does the traditional green-eyed monster called jealousy appear on the scene?

One answer comes from a clever study by developmental researchers Sybil Hart, Tiffany Field, Claudia Del Valle, and March Letourneau that tested 12-month-old babies under two conditions. In one, moms were asked to ignore their children while looking through a picture book. In the other, still ignoring their babies, moms were given a life-size baby doll to cuddle. If simply being ignored is what annoys babies this age, then both situations should be equally upsetting. But that’s not what happened. Instead, these year-old children were significantly more distressed about the doll than the book, suggesting that they specifically resented seeing another “baby” get the cozy comfort of Mommy’s lap.

Looks like sibling rivalry is a two-way street from pretty early on!

Happy Signing (and don’t forget to follow us on Facebook)!


Linda Acredolo, Ph.D.
Co-Founder, the Baby Signs® Program
Professor Emeritus, UC Davis
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