(Not sure if this should be on the Biology.SE or even the Psychology.SE)
Someone I know is currently in the process of getting a divorce, because (or so they tell me) they have a baby who's distressed by one parent. The baby, who is less than a year old, is "immensely distressed" by the offending parent's presence, and takes several days to stop being distressed. The other parent moved out of the house and is seeking to limit the offending parent's access to the child, leading to arguments and a divorce.
I have several questions about this:
- Is it valid to be worried over the baby being distressed (i.e. crying) by one parent's presence at this stage of the baby's life? After all, the baby is less than a year old, and nobody can remember anything when they were that young. Given that there are no memories of this period, can what happens still affect the baby's later well-being?
- If it is valid, at what age does the baby becoming distressed by one parent start becoming a problem?
- If it is not valid, at what age should one start worrying if the baby is still distressed by one parent?
From my Googling it seems memories don't begin until about 2 years old, but I cannot find resources on whether this implies one can reasonably ignore the baby being distressed by one parent in the first two years after birth. Intuitively I would guess that if the cause of distress is material, e.g. heat or hunger, then it could have some subconscious impact later in life (does it?), but I do not know about a person's presence.
Update: apparently the two parents approached a child psychologist, who doesn't know what is causing the crying either.
Update 2: the baby cries if and only if one of the parent is present. If the parent is present the baby starts crying. If the parent leaves, she takes a while (~5 minutes) to stop crying. [I know I did write above that the baby takes several days to stop being distressed. It could be that the baby remains distressed, just less severely, until that time.] The phenomenon is reproducible, and the baby is distressed enough that it is beyond comfort as long as the offending parent is present or even if the baby knows the parent is somewhere nearby.
A different child psychologist diagnosed the problem as "Relationship Specific Disorder of Infancy", which appears to be a new condition in the medical literature; in fact it seems to only have been described in 2016. As far as I know, the parents are attempting to treat the condition.
I do not, however, think the specifics of the condition are relevant to this question.