Childhood, the period from birth to puberty, is a period of limited ability and responsibility. Infancy is not a useless
period. Great things happened to infants. Jesus spoke as a baby. The fetus is a person to be addressed as an individual. A
child or an infant is not a miniature adult. It has a distinct personality, identity, needs, and has to be handled differently.
The scope of parental responsibility is wide starting with pregnancy and continuing until puberty and in most cases
even beyond puberty. Parents are responsible for material support of their children and for educating and upbringing. Children
must be reared in a family. They must be loved. Equal treatment of children is enjoined. Special emphasis is put on good treatment
of female children as a preventive measure against abuse.
Breast-feeding by the mother establishes both a biological and psychological bond between the mother and the baby.
In order to complete the infant’s biological and psychological growth and development, breast-feeding must continue
for not less than 2 years. It is however not an exclusive dietary source after the first 6 months.
GROWTH: PHYSICAL, SOCIAL, and PSYCHOLOGICAL
Babies can learn and retain information. Under-estimation of infants is the cause of under-stimulation by many parents.
Children are born in a state of natural purity. It is the parents who can misguide them. Good parents and a virtuous social
environment will guide them to the good. Inadequate parents and a poor social environment will guide them to evil.
Intellectual development is gradual. The age of 7 is the age of discrimination. Full intellectual maturity is not reached
until the age of puberty. Full legal responsibility is at puberty and by this time children have, according to Piaget, acquired
abstract thinking to supplement the concrete thinking on which children rely.
Social development starts with awareness of the self then the family and the neighborhood. As the child grows older,
it becomes aware of membership in larger groupings: the tribe, the nation, and the universe. At a later stage it learns about
the history and the future.
Gender identity is acquired quite early but its meaning and implications become deeper as the child grows. Development
of social responsibility and accountability differ among children. That is why orphans are tested before they are given control
over their inheritance.
Each person has innate personality traits that are part of his nature. Nurture introduces even more differences among
individuals as environmental factors interact with the basic nature. A lot of behavior is copied or is assimilated from parents
and other social role models. That is why it is very important to provide children with positive role models. They should
never be exposed to negative role models even for brief moments.
12.2.4 DISORDERS OF INFANCY and CHILDHOOD
Common disorders of infancy are birth injuries, congenital malformations, perinatal infections, metabolic disorders,
and neoplasms. Common disorders of childhood are developmental (especially sexual differentiation), nutritional, behavioral,