object permanence

Object permanence refers to the ability of the brain to retain and utilise visual images. It develops at about eight months of age. This faculty is distinct from a baby's recognition memory.

For example, a baby is able to recognise and prefers to look at its mother by the third day of life. However, it will not cry upon being left by mother; "Out of sight, out of mind." At around eight months, the child will be exhibit signs of separation anxiety when mother leaves the room. This is because the child can now appreciate what he has just lost - the presence of his mother. Another sign of the attainment of object permanence is baby's delight at the game of "peek-a-boo," which demonstrates graphically that the child appreciates that just because Mother is out of direct view she is still in the world and can be recalled by moving the hands or blanket out of the way. Stranger anxiety is another.

The development of object permanence at roughly the same time that a baby's sleep cycle changes from the more irregular infantile pattern to the regular, rythmic 90-110 minute sleep cycle of older children and adults leads to the onset of predictable problems of night waking at around eight to nine months in children habitually rocked or nursed to sleep.

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