Your Baby's First Year by the American Academy of Pediatrics[1], in a chapter about very young babies, includes the following paragraph:

The best way to handle crying is to respond promptly to your infant whenever he cries during his first few months. You cannot spoil a young baby by giving him attention; and if you answer his calls for help, he'll cry less overall.

I wonder what evidence there is for "You cannot spoil a young baby by giving him attention". Was there, perhaps, a longitudinal study done of children who were paid less and more attention, and how spoiled they were — which I take to mean how much attention they demanded — when they were older? Is the claim pure conjecture on the AAP's part? Or what?

[1] It's actually edited by one Steven P. Shelov, but has the imprimatur of the AAP. The edition I'm quoting from is the June 1998 Bantam edition, ISBN 0-553-57904-5, and the quotation is from page 52.

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    Related: skeptics.stackexchange.com/q/3498
    – Flimzy
    Commented May 17, 2012 at 3:00
  • If only we had a reliable source for this statement. Maybe we could check with the American Academy of Pediatrics to see if they know anything about it? Commented May 17, 2012 at 16:06
  • @DJClayworth, excellent idea. I'll e-mail the mailbox info at the server healthychildren.org (an official AAP address), pointing to this page, and see if they reply here or via e-mail. If the latter, I'll update here.
    – msh210
    Commented May 17, 2012 at 16:31
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    The Shelov address was wrong, and delivery failed. Awaiting a reply from the AAP, though.
    – msh210
    Commented May 17, 2012 at 16:51
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    Without a clear definition of 'spoil' it's always gonna be a challenge to answer this. Commented Feb 28, 2014 at 10:15

1 Answer 1


I guess you cannot spoil someone who is not able to anticipate that if he cries the care-giver will come to help. I've read from different sources that this developmental milestone is achieved when babies are 9-12 months, eg. here: http://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/itf09cogdevfdcae.asp

The reference given is Lerner & Ciervo 2003. My guess is that it refers to: Lerner & Ciervo 2003. Healthy Minds: Nurturing Children’s Development from 0 to 36 Months. http://www.zerotothree.org/child-development/brain-development/9-12months.pdf

This document is in turn apparently based on a report by the NAS: National Research Council. From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2000. http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=9824 But I haven't found the relevant part by flicking through this over-600-pages report.

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