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For many decades both psychology and general public witnessed a science of in a way 'split-up' babies. Different authors developed theories about different parts of human infants and children. Reading their books makes one feel that they do not even belong to the same genre. Furthermore, what does, for instance, the 'Freudian baby' have in common with the 'Kleinian baby'? Not to mention the 'Piagetian'. And it is not only that the answer is "very little, or almost nothing," but also that number of these '-ian babies' is not small.
Different approaches, of course, 'split' babies in different ways, often disregarding other possible explanations. Some are monolithic in their emphasis on cognition, some consider almost nothing but drives and/or affects, and some are interested in infant's of child's social abilities only. Therefore, for the science of psychology the infant is in the same time "autistic" and "competent," exclusively "sensory-motor" and inclusively "social being." Also, the infant has been either observed, experimented with or extrapolated from therapeutic experiences. But almost never investigated with the use of combined procedures. In a nutshell, the infant has been manifold, and such was his/her manifoldness that it was impossible for psychology to create one infant out of so many.
The integrative approach has its roots in the works of people who, like its pioneer Rene Spitz, tried to combine clinical experience with systematic observation and experimentation. And that the authors of this book, T. Berry Brazelton and Stanley I. Greenspan, were attracted by this approach is by no means surprising. What would be closer to hearts and minds of the perhaps most famous neonatologist and child psychiatrist in the world? Since Brazelton's and Greenspan's work and influence need no introduction, just consider what they have offered us in this book: decades of clinical work with infants and children, psychiatric experience, cross-cultural work on different continents (from Kenya to Russia to Guatemala), research experience in child psychology including observation and experimentation with fetuses in utero, two completely developed models for assessment of child development, involvement in various social situations affecting children, experience with various social institutions dedicated to children care.
No, although they combine all these, the book is not disorganized or difficult to understand or a boring textbook. What is good in the way it is written is that large parts were not written at all. They were discussed. Like two sages, Brazelton and Greenspan talk about various subjects, switching effortlessly from one kind of data to another, and from one way of treating troubled children to another. And the number of topics dealt with in this book is enormous. Name a potential problem for an infant or a child and it is discussed here: What if the mother's in prison; What if one of the divorced parents lives in NY and another in LA; How do affective states affect cortical development; How to organize a day care unit; Where are the problems with foster care; How to reinforce individual differences in the school system; How much TV or computer games should children be allowed; and so on, and so on.
The book is organized around seven chapters dedicated to seven different needs, needs without which, in the authors' opinion, a child can not grow up to be a normal adult (that is, needs for ongoing nurturing relationships; for physical protection, safety, and regulation; for experiences tailored to individual differences; for developmentally appropriate experiences; for limit setting, structure, and expectations; for stable, supportive communities and cultural continuity; for protection of the future). Each chapter ends with recommendations where one can find very precise data and advise for parents and caregivers (for example, the amount of time that your child may spend before TV or PC regarding his/her age, and dozens of similar things in each chapter).
However, last but not the least, this can be a bit misleading. Closing the book, one could think that it is written for general public. And, indeed, a layman can read the book without many problems and with a lot of substantial benefit. One can only hope that the book will reach as wide an audience and exert as strong an influence on our future as possible. But that is not the end of its importance. Although the book does not contain chapters dedicated to explication of theoretical tenets, that makes only for one challenge more. They are present implicitly, but still are consistent, and so important that each professional reader must not forget to make his or her own explication. And application of the tenets too, of course.
© 2001 Aleksandar Dimitrijevic Aleksandar Dimitrijevic is on the Faculty of Philosophy, University of Belgrade, Yugoslavia.
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