Understanding Infant Maturity

If you’ve been around the Life Model, you’ve probably heard about the five stages of maturity: infant, child, adult, parent, and elder. If you are newer to the Life Model, the stages of maturity outline the growth process from infancy through adulthood in terms of relational skills, emotional health, and the ability to handle life’s challenges. Regardless of your experience with the Life Model, understanding maturity is an ongoing process that requires us to regularly check-in with ourselves to see where we are growing and where we get stuck. We do not graduate from one level to the next, and often the process of growth is more of a zig zag line, rather than a smooth-sailing experience. 

As the initial stage of maturity, infant maturity is the first building block of how we experience the world. Chronologically, we are in infant maturity from 0-4 years old. However, if we did not receive what we needed as infants, we may need to revisit learning how to meet those needs later as adults. Here’s some key aspects of infant maturity in the context of the Life Model: 

  1. Establishment of Joy Bonds: Infant maturity emphasizes the importance of forming joyful connections with primary caregivers. These joy bonds are foundational for developing a sense of security and belonging. 
  2. Capacity for Joy and Peace: At this stage, infants learn to experience and return to a state of joy and peace after distress. 
  3. Nonverbal Communication: Infants primarily communicate nonverbally, and they learn to read and respond to nonverbal cues from caregivers. This skill lays the groundwork for understanding and empathizing with others. 
  4. Developing a Sense of Identity: Infants begin to develop a sense of self based on their interactions with caregivers. Positive interactions help infants see themselves as valuable and loved. 
  5. Attachment Formation: Secure attachments formed during infancy are critical for later emotional and relational health. These attachments provide a safe base from which infants can explore the world. 
  6. Learning to Synchronize with Others: Infants start to synchronize their emotional states with those of their caregivers. This mutual regulation helps them learn to manage their own emotions and respond to others appropriately. 

At the core of infant maturity, is the goal of learning how to receive from others well. Deficits or traumas experienced during this stage can impact future relational and emotional development. Therefore, addressing and healing these early wounds is crucial for satisfying relationships later in life. Regardless of age, we all need secure relationships that help us regulate from distress, establish joy, and have moments where we can soak in someone else’s care for us. Often this is where we need God to redeem previous bad relational experiences by bringing us into the care of spiritual family that helps us heal our wounded hearts. Stay tuned for next week’s blog as Claudia Hendricks shares on the importance of learning to receive throughout life. 

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