Babies and young children thrive when they are cared for by adults that are “crazy about them!” (Bronfenbrenner, 1976 1). Responsive relationships with consistent primary caregivers help build positive attachments that support healthy social-emotional development. These relationships form the foundation of mental health for infants, toddlers and preschoolers.
"Infant mental health" is defined as the healthy social and emotional development of a child from birth to 3 years; and a growing field of research and practice devoted to the:
promotion of healthy social and emotional development;
prevention of mental health problems; and
treatment of the mental health problems of very young children in the context of their families.2
Diagnostic Classification of Mental Health and Developmental Disorders of Infancy and Early Childhood, Revised (common reference: DC: 0-3R)
ZERO TO THREE’s revised, developmentally based diagnostic manual, is based on a growing understanding of early cognitive development. It stand to make early treatment more effective than ever. The new criteria include new diagnostic subsets for depression, anxiety disorders, including separation anxiety and social anxiety, and feeding behavior disorders.
DC: 0-3R Training
Five trainings offered—from introductory to advanced to training trainers—through ZERO TO THREE's Center for Training Services. (See other ZERO TO THREE Training Opportunities.)
Early Childhood Mental Health: Promotion, Prevention and Treatment
Effective strategies for promoting healthy social and emotional health in very young children.
Diagnosing Infants Affected by Disasters or Violence
Guidance for using DC:0-3R with young children and their families who have experienced disaster or community violence.
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Helping Young Children Cope After a Disaster
Guidance for supporting very young children in the aftermath of disaster.
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The Importance of Good Relationships?
Research tells us that early relationships play a critical role in supporting mental health in infants and young children.
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Mental Illness in the Peripartum Period
This article provides an overview of mental illness that can present in the peripartum period, with the aim of improving their early detection, diagnosis, and treatment by health professionals.
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Tips on Social-Emotional Development
Discusses how parents can support their child’s social-emotional development through everyday interactions. All of the tips are listed under the Key Topic of Social and Emotional Development.
Learning Through Play from Birth to Three
Explores how play supports children’s learning and development in all areas, including their thinking, physical, and social-emotional skills. To access this resource, please log-in or register now.
Getting Ready for School Begins at Birth
Explores how parents can help their baby or toddler learn the basic skills they will need to succeed in school later on through everyday caregiving routines and interactions. To access this resource, please log-in or register now.
For additional information, visit the Parenting Resources Key Topic on children's social-emotional development.
For more, see the feature articles under the Key Topic on Military Families.
Helping Young Children Succeed
Describes how state policymakers can support the healthy social-emotional development of young children from birth to age 5. (Joint research and policy report developed by the ZERO TO THREE Policy Center and the National Conference of State Legislatures.)
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Improving Maternal and Infant Mental Health
Explores the impact of maternal depression on very young children. (Joint policy brief of ZERO TO THREE and the National Center for Infant and Early Childhood Health Policy at UCLA.)
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Promoting Healthy Social-Emotional Development
Offers guidance to state policymakers and administrators on promoting the healthy social and emotional development of infants and toddlers.
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Infant/Early Childhood Mental Health: A Concern for All
Presentation made by Cindy Oser, R.N., M.S., Director ZERO TO THREE West for the Health Resources and Services Administration/Maternal and Child Health Bureau Grantees meeting on Oct. 5, 2004.
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Case Studies in Infant Mental Health
By Joan J. Shirilla and Deborah J. Weatherston (Eds.) (2002)
How Culture Shapes Social-Emotional Development
By Rebecca Parlakian (2003)
Implications for practice in infant family programs
Little Listeners in an Uncertain World
Coping strategies for you and your child during deployment or when a crisis occurs
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All of our trainings are provided through ZERO TO THREE's Center for Training Services
DC: 03R Training
Five trainings offered based on participant's experience and background.
Consulting and Mentoring In Early Childhood Programs
Aimed at infant-toddler specialists and others working with infant and early childhood providers.
Child Care Consultation In Action
Describes an early childhood mental health consultation project with the Jewish Family and Childrens Services of Peninsula, Marin, and Sonoma Counties.
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Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning
Docs for Tots
National Child Care Information Center: Mental Health Needs of Young Children
National Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center