While the psychological world that the newborn confronts is complicated they possess a biological predisposition to create a sense of who they are or, as psychologists term it, a "sense of self" from the social experiences they encounter. Beginning in their second year a profound continuing struggle exists between infant and caretaker as the child battles to establish their autonomy apart from the people who controls their destiny. But because babies are not born with instructions and parents have their own childhood-based limitations, the "good-enough" parent-child interaction needed by a child is not always gained, to the long-term suffering of both. Which is where psychotherapy may enter their lives but that is another matter.
A Psychologist's Thoughts on Clinical Practice, Behavior, and Life
Every Infant's Inescapable Battle
On Inborn Psychological Capacities
While humans are born with instinctive psychological abilities like the ability to learn language, a child being able to induct the grammatical structure of their native language (thus a child born in China easily learns Chinese while a child born in Germany easily learns German), the successful development of more complex functions depend on experiencing the "good-enough" interaction with their earliest parenting figure, which for most children is their mother. Because of an infant's psychological immaturity, conflict between their desires and the needs of their parents are inevitable. Yet, from this, the child's mind usually expands healthffully. It is only when parents don't encourage their child's struggle for individuation that unneeded exaggerated tension occurs. Caused by the parents lacking knowledge about child development (a baby doesn't exit the womb with instructions), or the lingering effects of the parents' psychological struggles with their parents.
The Inexaustable Strength of Mothers
My experience with treating mothers has long impressed me with their strength. Despite their continuing daily tasks of tending to wandering-about youngsters, seemingly incomprehensible teenagers, difficult husbands, and an occasional sickly rabbit or other pet, they cook, clean, negotiatate with school officials, provide transportation to appointments, and cope with such intermittent crises as helping with children's homework and arranging for home repairs. All while trying, and often failing, to care for themselves.
Part of this is inevitable since, in most families, the mother is the emotional center of the family, which also makes her the major recipient of children's complaints. If a child is unhappy, it's HER fault. Is this fair? Of course not but that's how it is.
Which is not to say that the father's role is unimportant since, though the mother (or mothering figure who can be a male) is the most important figure during the first two years of a child's life, the father becomes equally important during their third year, serving to pull the child from the symbiotic relationship with their mother into the larger world and, ultimately, independent adult functioning.