Why Isn't My Child Reaching His Milestones?

Is Your Child a Shrinking Violet?

Can a child lag behind in social development? The answer is complex. Children vary widely in when and how they exhibit social skills, such as smiling broadly when a parent enters the room. But it's predominantly temperament -- not physical or developmental issues -- that dictates a child's social climb.

"As many as 20 percent of developmentally normal babies under the age of 1 year are not very sociable. They may be more interested in their toys than in interacting with others," says Michael Lewis, PhD, professor of pediatric psychiatry at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick, New Jersey. "Similarly, some kids cry in the presence of a stranger, and some simply pause for a moment and go back to playing. Both are responding -- they're just responding at different levels of intensity."

Temperamental variability aside, a lack of social abilities could signal a medical or developmental problem. A baby who doesn't have a social smile or won't make eye contact may need help.

Originally published in American Baby magazine, September 2004.

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