Secrets of our conditioning 1

The Amazing Infant. First Edition

November 23, 2007

It is rare for a textbook on infants to focus on so few of the numerous developmental issues being researched. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Unlike many other books in this genre, Tiffany Field's looks at how a child's social environment effects his or her behavioural, emotional and cognitive development. In addition, the mental health of mothers in relation to infants' development is a common theme throughout.

The first chapter gives a number of brief descriptions on how infant- testing is conducted. Many methods are covered, but none in enough depth to allow students to design an infant-research project using any one of these techniques. A guide for students should devote more space to commonly used techniques rather than a list of all possible testing methods.

Two chapters are dedicated to prenatal and perinatal development. I can only think that these were included to appeal to expectant mothers. I would be misrepresenting the book if I failed to say that most of what is written is based on research.

However, the book loses focus when Field goes on to give examples of alternative therapies to reduce stress and writes a section on methods of delivery, covering Caesarean section and vaginal birth - surely even the greenest student would know what these are! By this stage I wasn't sure who the book was written for - parents or students.

There are a couple of interesting chapters on sensory development including visual and language development. Unfortunately, memory development merits only a short paragraph; likewise, most of the other cognitive skills that infants develop. Although the writing is clear and informative, the bias in this book is clearly towards social and emotional development.

At the end, the author includes her diary of her daughter's first year. This fun feature also includes cute pictures of babies. In it, Field notes the ages at which her daughter reached different social, physical and emotional milestones. For example, we read that at nine months her daughter "prefers feeding herself" and at ten months she takes her first step.

This is interesting, but of course many infants don't want to feed themselves at nine months (boys often don't want to feed themselves at three years of age!) and walking can begin anywhere between nine months and 19 months-plus.

Who is it for? Overall, this is an enjoyable read, albeit frustrating at times with brief descriptions and irrelevant information. It wouldn't suit everyone - and it certainly shouldn't be the only infant development book that students read, but it does give an insight into the first year of a child's life and the impact the environment has on development. Is it suitable for parents, students and professionals, as the blurb on the back of the book states? I don't think so. Students, yes; professionals, maybe. Parents no.

Presentation: Easy to follow with concise chapters.

Would you recommend it? Yes, but not at £50 for the hardback.

Janine Spencer is a developmental psychologist and runs the Centre for Research in Infant Behaviour at Brunel University.

The Amazing Infant. First Edition

Author - Tiffany Field
Publisher - Blackwell
Pages - 2
Price - £50.00 and £16.99
ISBN - 9781405153911 and 3928

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