The word ‘infancy’ has several senses. Its Latin roots refer to the incapacity (‘in’) to speak (‘fans’). In law, this may relate to an age at which an individual is unable to speak for themselves (up to the age of 21 years in common law). But in social sciences, infancy is typically deemed to end around the age of 18 months, by which time most toddlers have become effective talkers.

As social scientists have grown reflexive, the awkward clashes between their different visions of infancy have produced three responses. One is to persist with normal science in the belief that, eventually, empirical evidence will determine the most valid view of babyhood. The second is to abandon empirical research as inevitably the vehicle for political agendas and, ...

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