Demystifying Infant Mental Health: What the Primary Care Provider Needs to Know

J Pediatr Health Care. Jan-Feb 2016;30(1):38-48. doi: 10.1016/j.pedhc.2015.09.011. Epub 2015 Nov 7.


Infant mental health is an interdisciplinary professional field of inquiry, practice, and policy that is concerned with alleviating suffering and enhancing the social and emotional competence of young children. The focus of this field of practice is supporting the relationships between infants and toddlers and their primary caregivers to ensure healthy social and emotional development. Notably, the connection between early life experiences and lifelong health has been well established in the scientific literature. Without appropriate regulation from a supportive caregiver, exposure to extreme stressors in early childhood can result in wide-ranging physiological disruptions, including alterations to the developing brain and immune, metabolic, and cardiovascular systems. As part of this interdisciplinary team, pediatric primary care clinicians are in a unique position to incorporate infant mental health practice tenets during their frequent office visits with infants and toddlers. This article provides pediatric primary care clinicians with an overview of infant mental health practice and suggestions for the conscious promotion of positive early relationships as an integral component of well-child care.

Keywords: Infants; attachment; behavior/behavioral problems; mental health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Mental Health*
  • Primary Health Care*