Image Source Trading Ltd/Shutterstock

Can Babies Actually Get Jealous?

Jealousy is a part of life. It makes you feel horrible about yourself, and can cause you to do things that make you feel ashamed. You already know that kids, teens, and adults can (and do) get jealous from time to time. But can babies actually get jealous?

They sure can. According to a 2008 study conducted by researchers at York University, babies can experience jealousy as early as 3 months. Previously, researchers and experts believed that more advanced emotions (like jealousy) kicked in when the baby was more mature - around age two - but it appears that they can begin exhibiting jealous behaviors much sooner than that. York University psychology professor Maria Legerstee conducted the study in which a female researcher sat with a baby and its mother. When the researcher and mother were interacting instead of focusing on the baby, the baby became visibly upset and acted out (kicking, yelling, moving around, etc.) to try to get the women's attention.

Think about what happens when your best friend brings her baby over to your house and you hold her in front of your baby. Oftentimes, Baby gets upset that Mom is loving on another little one instead of him or her. According to Today's Parent, that's normal and natural because your baby fights for your attention as a survival instinct. But, as Audrey Huberman, early childhood education professor at Ryerson University told what little babies need most when they do that is their parent's "voice, touch, and gaze." So it's possible that cooing at your baby or smiling at her while your friend holds her can do enough to eliminate those feelings of panic and jealousy.

If you have multiples, it can be even more difficult. In an essay on Kveller, a mom of twin infant girls mused that the twins may be jealous of one another and mentioned that she feels awful having to randomly choose which one to get out of her crib first in the morning and then watch as the other bursts into tears.

Although undoubtedly heart-wrenching for Mom, there is a silver lining in witnessing your baby get all worked up because you're paying attention to someone else (be it their other parent, a sibling, a friend, cousin, or stranger). According to BabyCenter, outward exhibitions of jealousy mean that parent and infant have bonded — they recognize you and your role in their life and don't yet know how to share that attention that they think should be rightfully theirs.

It's difficult to nip jealous behaviors in the bud when your baby is still small, but as they get older you'll be able to teach them the concept of sharing, as well as how to self-soothe and be more independent. This means that when Mom or Dad's attention is divided, it will no longer be the end of the world. Plus, by the time they're teenagers they don't really want all of your attention to be on them anyway.