Sunday, January 07, 2007

Adoption reading, books aimed at parents, relatives and childcare workers - first installment

I'm not sure how frequent these will be but there is far too much so far to put in one post so I may do a few over the next few days or weeks. Apologies for the totally idiosyncratic writing style and theoretical stance - these are notes for me, which I guess I'll share verbally with the social worker, but I thought some people might be interested. At least I'm trying to use APA format!

Mercer, J. (2006). Understanding attachment: parenting, child care, and emotional development: Praeger Publishers.
Review [originally written for the discussion forum at Adoption UK website]: This is written by a respected academic and although it is primarily intended, I think, to be of use to parents who are wondering about childcare issues and, especially, divorce, it is really readable, with only a little jargon, and it has a lot of information which will be highly relevant to adoptive parents (I imagine, not being one myself!).

All of the work on attachment that she talks about is very well researched, and has been confirmed in a number of studies. She also talks about some "misuse" of the term "attachment". In particular, she talks about some of the more extreme therapies (I know that some people have come across these, I don't want to tread on anyone's toes by slagging them off, but I do know that some can be actively dangerous), and also tries to disentangle "bonding" (the parent's feeling for the child) from "attachment" (the child's feeling for the caregivers).

I know that reading this will give some people a slightly different picture of attachment than they have read in more popular "therapy" books but I do think that what she writes is based on actual research rather than speculation, and she uses the most accepted definition of attachment.

The other thing that is helpful about the book is it really goes into detail about the different ages and stages of attachment, and how it works for adults. I know that my students, and friends who are parents and ask me for advice, are always keen to know when children go through different stages - it is so easy to think that what will work for a child aged 1 will also work aged 4 - and to expect that a child should be able to do one thing when in fact they have not gone through the previous stage.

Fahlberg, V. (1994). Child's Journey Through Placement: Brit. Agencies for Adoption & Fostering.
Interesting and quite informative – probably really aimed at social workers but in language that can be understood by parents. Gives parents a good idea of the processes children and social workers go through in coming to the decision to place a child for adoption, and some of the things they (should) take into consideration. It appears to be a fairly introductory text for social workers, but some of the things I have read elsewhere suggest that even the basics are sometimes ignored. It also has easy-to-read and fairly accurate sections on child development (strong on social development, not surprisingly, but with some other aspects covered).

Sunderland, M. (2006). Science of parenting: practical guidance on sleep, crying, play, and building emotional well-being for life. New York: Dorling Kindersley.
Very long on speculation and extrapolation and, sadly, short on science. The book tries to give biological explanation for each and every behaviour but unfortunately we do not know that much about how neural activity even correlates with (let alone drives) children’s behaviour. Fails to acknowledge the possibility that children can, for example, learn how to behave themselves in situations when they would naturally find it hard, but instead expects parents to adapt everything to the child’s supposedly “inevitable” stage of development. This means the book is rather disappointing for parents of children with difficulties as the implication is that therapy and behaviour modification can’t work, either. Some of the supposed links between brain and behaviour are rather unfounded (there is no evidence children who are left to cry for moderate lengths of time end up with neurological damage, as she implies) or in fact current evidence actually contradicts them (she labours the point that children’s frontal lobes are underdeveloped – so they can’t be expected to do anything involving higher thought – when in fact we know they can do some things that require frontal lobe functions from at least the age of about 18 months -2 years).

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