Although neonatology, the study of the newborn, is well established in medical science, psychological research on the newborn is relatively scarce. Can we justify this period as a distinct stage of human development in Psychology? This introductory article considers the unique characteristics of the neonatal period, the impact of the transition to extrauterine life, including the impact of birth itself, and the stages of brain development that characterize this period. It presents evidence of an intentional, intersubjective neonate, and uses behavioural and neuroscientific evidence to argue that the neonate's early social preferences and responses indicate a unique, sensitive, experience-expectant stage of development.
The authors of this issue agree in proposing that the newborn infant is prepared, evolutionarily and psychobiologically, to be born intersubjective. The notion of an intersubjective newborn infant, however, is virtually impossible to support without data and models from neuroscience, medicine, perinatology, physiology, ethology, evolutionary psychology and cognitive science. This issue is an attempt to bring scientists together from many of these fields to explore the unique characteristics of the first weeks of life. Copyright (C) 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.