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The Science of Parenting Hardcover – May 15, 2006

4.5 out of 5 stars 78 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Promoting a research-backed view of the parents-in-charge approach to child rearing, Sunderland's guide is a smart, complete book that never overwhelms. Laid out like a school textbook, with clear organization, copious color photographs and plenty of boldfaced "Key Points," Sunderland's text is upbeat, accessible and encouraging. Advice is both common-sense and well-considered: "each time you help your child think and feel about what he is experiencing, and each time you find the right words for his intense feelings, you are probably helping the development of more sophisticated communication networks in your child's corpus callosum." Sunderland focuses on explaining how the child's underdeveloped brain motivates so-called behavior problems, including "tears and rage" caused when baby's "higher brain is not developed enough to moderate these powerful lower brain systems naturally." One of the most interesting elements of the book is its insight into how a given parenting style affects a child in the long-run, such as the idea that "being left to cry means a child learns that he is abandoned just at the time when he needs help" and can make him vulnerable to depression and anxiety disorders. Easy-to-use and entirely thorough-covering not just baby care, but mom and dad care too-this is an excellent resource for parents, caregivers and other policy makers.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

The market is awash in opinionated child-rearing guides, and it's hard to argue with opinion. Sunderland takes a smarter approach. Relying on scientific studies, she simply tells us what happens to a child's brain and body when, for example, we either hug the child or let him or her cry it out. Little decisions can have remarkably lasting effects on both the individual and society. Unlike many parenting guides, this isn't repackaged conventional wisdom. And although the title suggests a cold, clinical approach, the opposite is true. In well-organized, easy-to-read chapters with plenty of photos and sidebars, Sunderland argues for a hands-on, nurturing approach and points out that many modern parenting choices--separate beds for babies, for example--fly in the face of 200,000 years of Homo sapiens evolution. Of course, all science is subject to interpretation, but one look at the brain scan of an affection-deprived child will make parents hug their kids tighter. The only downside? Parents who are disabused of erroneous parenting lore no longer have the comfort of believing that there are no right answers. Keir Graff
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: DK (May 15, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0756618800
  • ISBN-13: 978-0756618803
  • Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 1.1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (78 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #314,748 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I just bought this book a few days ago, and completely adore it. There are quite a few child-rearing styles out there, from attachment to Ferberizing, and new parents can feel completely overwhelmed with the anecdotes and 'expert advice' thrown their way from every side-- especially when they don't know what effect any of those tactics will have on their little one.

This book clears up the mystery by providing scientific research on how an infant's brain is affected by his/her early experiences with you (the parent); namely, it demonstrates that how you respond to the baby's emotions/needs is the biggest component in how they view themselves and the world-- both at the time and decades later, well into adulthood. As the introduction notes, for many years "we have been using child-rearing techniques without awareness of the possible long-term effects, because until now we simply could not see the effects of our actions on a child's developing brain. But with the advances of neuroscience, brain scans, and years of research on the brains of primates and other mammals, we no longer have the innocence of ignorance. For several years, science has been revealing to us that key emotional systems in the human brain are powerfully molded for better or worse by parenting experiences."

The serious subject matter might make you worry it's more of a textbook than anything else-- but don't be fooled. The layout of the book makes it exceedingly easy to read and digest, and the photos (which are numerous) are nice and colorful. There are also lots of sidebars and little nuggets of information scattered throughout the pages, which breaks the text up and makes it even easier to read.

All in all, this is a top-notch parenting guide, and I say this as someone who owns a LOT of child-rearing books! If I could give "The Science of Parenting" 10 stars, I would.
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Format: Hardcover
I found this book on the discount shelf, and I am so glad that I did! As a trained molecular biologist, I appreciate the author's ability to explain development of neuronal pathways in a way that anyone can understand.

I absolutely disagree with the reviewers who indicate that the author excessively asserts her personal opinion. I did not find that to be true at all. In any case, shouldn't people value the opinion of a trained child therapist? Not to mention, this book is not short; are you telling me one should base one's opinion of an entire book on a tiny section regarding the length of time out? That is ludicrous.

Regarding a lack of science, I think the reference section allays any fear of that. Maybe the other reviewers missed that part, or maybe they are not used to reading technical, scientific style writing. I can only guess. The fact that the reference section is so extensive is part of why I love this book so much!

There is a TON of useful information in this book, but the most important take-home point is that parents must always respond to their babies distress, ALWAYS. Response does not mean the child gets what he or she wants all the time: response means that you help the child deal with his/her emotions. Stress reduction pathways are formed so early in life, and once a child reaches 2 or 3, it is too late to reverse the damage that inattentive parenting can cause. Let's face it, as parents we have a responsibility to our children, like it or not. Wouldn't you rather have the information you need to do your very best for your kids?

You don't have to be a scientist to understand how important this information is.
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Format: Hardcover
As a psychoanalyst I find this book fascinating, not only in terms of parenting my own kids, but in terms of the wider issues of promoting emotional health and well-being. The book gives a solid scientific backing to my responding to my kids' distress, rather than being told I am just indulgent and spoiling. It has also helped me to avoid getting into a submission/dominance clash over tantrums and to realise when one should concede with grace with a child who is distraught and furious in his failure to get through and emotionally connect with his parent. Of course there is a difference between this and a pure battle of wills with an older child who needs to be taught that Mummy is boss, and where clear boundaries are vital to make him feel safe. The book has also helped me to avoid shaming responses and to acknowledge what Margaret Mahler calls "emotional re-fuelling" ( that time in the playground when they just need to come back to base again, to say hello.) It has also helped me appreciate the scientific validity for the fact that the seemingly contented infant can actually be the infant who has given up. What's the point of screaming for help, if no one comes? The book is not about the all giving, long-suffering resentful mother. This does nothing for the self- esteem of the child. Rather the book speaks of the vital importance of parent care and the science supporting this.

I am full of admiration for the author's patience and thoroughness in collating this vast array of up to date neuroscientific research studies which focus mainly on parent- child interaction. (As these references are all at the back of the book, parents don't need to refer to them, but I am sure they will be a vital resource for mental health professionals!
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