Why Love Matters, by Sue Gerhardt
Sub-Title: How Affection Shapes a Baby's Brain
Size: approximately 13 x 19.5 cm
Why Love Matters explains why love is essential to brain development in the early years of life, and how early interactions between babies and their parents have lasting and serious consequences.
Sue Gerhardt explores how the earliest relationship shapes the baby's nervous system. She shows how the development of the brain determines future emotional well being, and goes on to look at specific early 'pathways' that can affect the way we respond to stress and can contribute to conditions such as anorexia, addiction, and anti-social behaviour.
Why Love Matters is a lively and accessible interpretation of the latest findings in neuroscience, psychology, psychoanalysis, and biochemistry. It is essential reading for parents and professionals alike.
(Please see the Reviews and the Table of Contents, below.)
About the Author:
Sue Gerhardt is a British psychoanalytic psychotherapist in private practice. She was a co-founder of the Oxford Parent Infant Project (OXPIP), a pioneering charity that provides psychotherapeutic help to parents with their babies.
"Why Love Matters is hugely important. It should be mandatory reading for all parents, teachers and politicians." - Rebecca Abrams, The Guardian
"This humane, wise book ... should be read by everyone concerned with the care of children." - Dorothy Rowe, psychologist and writer
"Sue Gerhardt's choice of title reflects the loving attention to detail that is the essence of this book... excellently researched and well-written book which deserves to be widely read by practitioners, researchers and parents." - Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice
"Sue Gerhardt has written a vitally important book - a must-read for every parent, teacher, physician and politician." - Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence
"A really useful briefing on the new neuroscience and its underpinning of the central tenet of contemporary psychoanalysis: how actual relationships form us and are central to therapeutic endeavours and, even more importantly, how important loving relationships are crucial to our capacity to be human." - Susie Orbach, psychotherapist, psychoanalyst, writer, and social critic
"I would like to add to that positive view and suggest that this book be on every reading list you offer to new parents, politicians, clients, colleagues, family and friends." - Jeannie Wright, British Journal of Guidance and Counselling
"Gerhardt's book offers perhaps one of the most concise arguments for why love and affection in early life truly do matter. Written with clear and direct language, this text can serve as a general resource for mental health professionals and parents alike." - Rachel Altamirano, Clinical Social Work Journal
"Why Love Matters
offers an eloquent overview of the latest scientific research on attachment. The author has accomplished the formidable task of linking the concrete language of neurochemistry to the more abstract area of attachment theory. In so doing, she has greatly clarified the nature-nurture argument. Her book beautifully establishes the critical importance of close emotional attachment for optimum brain development in childhood, and one's subsequent capacity for love and trust in adulthood. Why Love Matters
is an essential new work in the field of attachment." - Jan Hunt, author of The Natural Child: Parenting from the Heart
"Everything we do or say or learn is mediated by the wrinkled and gelatinous matter inside our skulls. As children grow up, their brains obviously change; not only do the neurons get charged with all the information the children acquire, but the brains physically change as well. It should be no surprise that children who have physical problems in upbringing, like, say, a bad diet, have brains that don't properly grow. It is also no surprise that children who are brought up in emotionally distressing situations have trouble getting along with others into adulthood. It was a surprise to find out, however, that children who are brought up under stress actually have brains that are physically different, and operate differently, from those who are well cared for. In the ambitiously-titled Why Love Matters: How Affection Shapes a Baby's Brain, Sue Gerhardt has summarized current findings in neuroscience about the developing brains of infants and how that development is influenced by the infants' early attachment experiences. Her work will be tough in parts for those unfamiliar with the neurological territory, but she presents many appealing examples, illustrations, and case studies, so that anyone might enjoy here learning about the inchoate findings of the links between attachment experiences and brain development.
The idea that experiences change brains physically, beyond the mere instillation of learning, is fully accepted. Gerhardt concentrates on the orbitofrontal cortex and on the effects of cortisol, a stress hormone which is required for development of the cortex and other brain regions, but which causes such development to be thwarted if the levels are too high. Babies who are stressed, who do not get proper attention and do not have confidence in being cared for, are likely to have high cortisol levels with resultant malformation of the orbitofrontal cortex. Early experience and patterns of attachment do change brain chemistry and structure in ways that cannot be changed back after a circumscribed period of development. It used to be that studying how babies would respond to their caregivers could only be done by sitting behind a two-way mirror and doing limited, uncruel experiments and watching the behavioral results. It could be observed, for instance, that an inconsistent parent could tend to produce an anxious child. This is the sort of "soft" science that is a target for being woolly-headed liberal supposition, but it can now begin to be supplemented with the hard facts of neuroscience.
How we are treated as babies influences how our brains develop and determines how we get along with others. As Gerhardt says, this is one of the strange things about research in this field: "After developing ingenious experiments and rigorous controls, the fruits of its labours tend to be blindingly obvious." It is, however, important that we now are getting a scientific basis to show that what is self-evident actually can be shown by evidence. The evidence compellingly argues for a responsive style of care, continuously available, as the best environment for a baby, and Gerhardt's own work as a psychotherapist has taken on cases of parents and babies who need assistance in arranging such an environment. Her case illustrations are excellent and readable, and the simple lesson, now backed by hard science, that babies need and deserve responsive care for proper emotional development, cannot be overstressed." - R Hardy (Top 100 Reviewer, Amazon)
"This book really opened my eyes to the fundamentals of brain development in infancy. I had no idea how much the actual physiology of the brain is affected by infant experience, not just the psychological. Sources are well cited, ideas are well backed up in scientific research, and the information is presented in a way which benefits lay readers as well as researchers (with an introduction about brain structure and development).
I suggest every parent-to-be get a hold of this book. One reviewer was dissapointed by the lack of specific exercises to play with. However, I don't think they are necessary because this book gives specifics about why certain strategies affect infants. I think understanding why certain types of parenting work better than others makes parents more likely to come up with the kind of adaptive spontaneous strategies which come out of such a way of thinking. You could also check out Brazelton for more specific info about exercises to do with your baby.
As a side note, once you read this book and make decisions about parenting based on the exhaustive research cited within, you will not only feel more confident about your parenting, but you will be able to defend against attacks from helpful but persistent grandparents, in-laws, and friends - should you want to engage in such discussions." - Littlecatland (from Amazon)