Reviewed by: Michael Fiorini, New York University
Sue Gerhardt is a psychoanalytic psychotherapist who has been in private practice since 1997. She is a co-founder of the Oxford Parent Infant Project (OXPIP) charity. The charity, operating out of Oxfordshire, provides psychotherapeutic services to hundreds of parents and their babies, and is now becoming a prototype for many new parent-infant projects throughout England.
Gerhardt’s book aims to reconcile the growing disparity between public and professional knowledge of the new developments in cognitive and behavioral neuroscience, as well as social developmental, and personality psychology that pertain to early infant development and beyond. Her focus is on a timeline spanning conception through the first several years of life, relating findings from research on that period to later adolescent and adult development. In the second edition of Why Love Matters, scientific findings have been brought up to date with additional research on genetics, the mind-body connection, and the role of pregnancy in later emotional and physical well-being.
This book offers painstaking detail to assist parents in understanding the scientific content it presents. In spite of that goal, however, the sheer density of findings, the language used, and the way findings are presented are better suited for a college textbook or dissertation than for a book fashioning itself a reference for typical parents. Granted, the demographic of parents that would actually be reading the book may be more motivated or better equipped to pour through its collection of pertinent information than your average layperson, but it limits the audience this book can reach.
For a reader acquainted with psychology, this truly is an all-encompassing book on early human development and presents fascinating links between genetic expression and socio-cultural and environmental influence. Its method of case study as illustration is poignant, and though there is a degree of speculation present in the way these vignettes are discussed, the body of research is undeniably compelling for parents and professionals in the field alike. If parents do read the book and manage not to fall into a pattern of hypochondriacal monitoring that the author warns against, they will find it very helpful in guiding their child-raising strategies. For the professional who is not already well-versed in infant and child development, this book will also serve as an excellent starting point to be brought up to speed on contemporary findings.
Gerhardt, S. (2015). Why Love Matters. Second edition. Routledge. New York, NY.
Paperback. 303 pages. Includes index and references.
Key words: infant, child, early development, parents, love, genetic expression