Carolyn Pope Edwards
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
The age period bridging between infancy and early childhood (the 18-month or 2-year period between approximately 12 and 36 months of age) is often referred to as toddlerhood. Although toddlerhood is unquestionably a time of rapid growth and change, there exists no professional consensus as to exactly when it begins and ends or even whether it is a full-fledged developmental period, or stage, of childhood. A stage is a distinct time of development bounded by fundamental reorganizations in cognitive and socioemotional capacities and characterized by its own unique pattern of developmental issues, tasks, and achievements. If toddlerhood cannot be considered a genuine stage, then at least it must be a prominent transitional phase or substage on the cusp of infancy and childhood. In that case, it can be asked whether toddlers are more properly classified with infants or with young children with regard to the capabilities and limitations—the particular delights and puzzlements—they present to caregiving adults.
This uncertainty about whether or not toddlerhood is a distinct stage of childhood can be illuminated by a quick look at the professional literature. For example, many older developmental and early childhood education texts (especially those less influenced by the psychoanalytic perspective) do not include a major section on the toddler period (e.g., Gardner, 1978). Some recent texts continue to follow that older pattern and divide their material on childhood into three major periods, infancy, early childhood, and middle childhood (e.g., Craig and Kermis, 1995; Feldman, 2001; Santrock, 2000). In contrast, however, other newer texts follow the lead of Stone and Church (1973) and treat the infant and the toddler periods separately (Dehart, Sroufe, and Cooper, 2000; Newcombe, 1996). Still others combine them but recognize two major substages by using a chapter heading such as, “Infancy and Toddlerhood” (e.g., Berk, 1999; Papalia, Olds, and Feldman, 1999; J. Schickedanz, Schickedanz, Forsyth, and Forsyth, 2001). When infancy and toddlerhood are treated in a combined way, the boundary age marking the transition to early childhood is most often