Child Development: Myths and Misunderstandings [Book Review]

Having enjoyed both NurtureShock and 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology, I decided to read Child Development: Myths and Misunderstandings. This book is essentially a collection of 50 short essays regarding common child development myths, many that parents are likely to of heard if not fallen for themselves. Essays are organized in to different sections based on the relevant developmental stage (e.g., prenatal, infant & toddler, preschooler, school age, and adolescent & teenage) of the myth.

This book is clearly written for undergraduate students, as a supplemental text to a child development or education course. It includes questions and exercises at the end of each section along with some references. Even though it is aimed at specific college upperclassmen, it is still very readable and relevant to parents. The author kindly avoids jargon that you might otherwise expect.

I did not find anything really surprising, except maybe that the “Back to Sleep” campaign against SIDS may not be effective, but this may be because I had just read the NurtureShock and 50 Great Myths of Pop Psychology. There was without a doubt some overlap with those books and other common debunkings in the skeptics community (e.g., the fact that vaccines do not cause autism). I think most people will still find at least a couple surprising chapters, and if not, it at least helps to reinforce some of these concepts. I think more than anything, it will comfort some of those parents that worry that they might not have done everything they could have for their child, for example, if they did not breast feed, put their kids to sleep on their backs or were unable to “bond” immediately after birth with their child for medical reasons. If nothing else, this book helps to reinforce the resiliency of children.

I think most regular readers here would enjoy this book and should check it out. My only complaint was that it was rather expensive and hard to find for a small paperback. It was even challenging to find in libraries, and there was no Kindle version. However, I suspect all of these issues are because it is really in the textbook market, which is a different beast than the rest of the publishing world.

9 Responses to Child Development: Myths and Misunderstandings [Book Review]

  1. Andrew Hall says:

    Sounds interesting. Maybe I’ll pick it up after I’m done with Hitch-22

  2. Ticktock says:

    I’m interviewing the author tomorrow for the podcast. She has a blog that everyone should follow at…

    I’m very curious about her chapter on “patterning” – hadn’t heard anything about that. Also the chapters on baby talk and picky eaters were very helpful.

    There was a review of the book in the recent skeptic magazine.

  3. [...] Child Development: Myths as well as Misunderstandings [Book Review … [...]

  4. Jean Mercer says:

    Thanks for the kind words!But I confess that I’m very curious about what you mean by “not being able to bond with their baby right after birth”. Do you mean not being able to spend time alone with the baby? It’s a common myth/misunderstanding that having time with the baby is the same as bonding (developing an emotional connection to– not with– the baby). That time alone is really fun and gratifying, and it would be great if all parents could have it, but if people don’t have it, that won’t prevent the parents bonding and the baby months later forming an attachment to the parents. (Those events don’t happen at the same time, even if the word “bonding” makes it sound as if they do.)

    I know nurses often call the time with the baby “bonding” and confuse new parents about which is the practice and which is the emotional response, but psychologists and infant mental health professionals are careful to differentiate them.

    So, let’s be careful not to call the baby time “bonding” and make people think something terribly serious might have been missed. As you say, those ideas about mistakes are scary to parents, who have enough worries without mythical extras.

    Thanks again– Jean Mercer

    • slagell says:

      That is exactly what I meant by the bonding comment, but I should have used scare quotes or been clearer. Nurses in the birthing classes also told us of the importance of “bonding” with our child immediately after birth. They suggested skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding in the first 20 minutes or something.

      Anyway, it made my wife feel even worse when our first child was a month early and they rushed him off to the NICU, and she did not get to see him for 7.5 hours. If we would have read about that myth sooner, it would have made that whole ordeal a bit less stressful.

  5. Julia says:

    Ugh – I’m glad I didn’t hear about this bonding myth before my daughter was born and was whisked off to NICU for a few hours before I had a chance to meet her. I think it was at least 5 hours after she was born before I was even allowed to be in the same room with her. And we are perfectly fine in our “bonding” now seven years later. It’s funny I hear some of these things now and just thank goodness I didn’t hear them before having my baby because so many things did not work out in our family as the myths say they should!

  6. Jessica says:

    I’m curious about the Back to Sleep chapter – my understanding was that instances of SIDS were dramatically reduced following this campaign. (Of course, both my kids slept on their stomachs as soon as they were old enough to roll over on their own – no point in flipping them back if they’re sleeping soundly!)

    Re: bonding – my son was born via c-section so I wasn’t able to hold him until several hours after he was born, and since he was my first, any attempts at breastfeeding immediately after birth would have just been embarrassing for everyone. 4 years later, he seems pretty well bonded to us anyway.

  7. Jean Mercer says:

    Not to take over this blog– but I do want to respond to the comment about SIDS. There are a couple of points: one is that SIDS rates were already on the way down before Back to Sleep, and have continued down along the same trajectory. The other is that while deaths diagnosed as SIDS have decreased, deaths from unknown causes or from accidental suffocation or strangulation in bed have decreased. Is this simply a matter of changing diagnoses, like autism rates going up as people become more aware of the disorder? Could be. When there are multiple causes and multiple outcomes all connected, it’s awfully hard to know what things cause what.

    I don’t mean to suggest people should be cavalier about their young babies’ sleeping arrangements or lives in general. No pillows,no soft mattresses, no blankets for the little guys, because it’s obvious how they could suffocate with those things. A great big,important SIDS preventative is NO SMOKING in the house or car at all,not just around the baby. And how about this– using pacifiers is associated with lower SIDS rates. (You notice I don’t say that pacifiers cause this outcome.)

    Once again, this isn’t rocket science. it’s a lot more complicated than that!

    Jean Mercer

  8. Jean Mercer says:

    OOOOPS– above, I meant that deaths from unknown causes INCREASED while SIDS deaths decreased. J.M.

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