An expert in early brain development offers a timely reminder of the importance of human relationships in shaping the minds of the very young. Ann Barnet, a Washington, D.C., pediatric neurologist and founder of the Family Place, a community center for disadvantaged families, is aided by her writer husband (author of Global Dreams, 1994, and other political and socioeconomic analyses) in this review of what research in neurobiology and psychology reveals about the influences of genetics and environment on the intellectual and emotional development of children. They start by looking at the rapidly developing brain itself and how language is acquired by the young. Even children in a barely adequate environment learn to talk, they report reassuringly, but acquiring language proficiency and the level of literacy required for a more than poverty-level job is quite another matter. Next they turn to children's emotional growth and how it depends on interaction between inborn tendencies and life experiences. They examine the research on how empathy develops, the role it plays in moral judgment, and the multiple causes of aggressive behavior. They conclude that if violent crime is to be reduced in this country, early intervention in the lives of at-risk children is essential, but must be accompanied by broad improvements in the social and economic fabric--jobs, education, living conditions. Of special interest to working parents is the authors' examination of the effects of outside child care on children's development. High-quality day care, they report, can enhance children's development, but unfortunately, many facilities in this country, especially those for the youngest children, are of outstandingly poor quality. Having established the importance of nurturing relationships in the cognitive and emotional development of children, they urge public subsidy of paid parental leave and high-quality out-of-home child care. A sobering look at the power of early influences to affect the development of a healthy mind--and ultimately a healthy society.
Pub Date: July 1, 1998
Page Count: 384
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1998
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