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Baffled by the baby books

Tracy McVeigh, drawing on the University of Warwick’s recent study of parenting self-help books (“Parenting books make mums ‘feel like failures‘”, News), points up some interesting inconsistencies in advice to mothers. One of the experts she cites is Dr John Bowlby, and he is specifically identified with “advocating boarding schools for young children from difficult backgrounds”.

We would like to clarify that this piece of advice, from 1953, was specifically applied to “maladjusted children” over eight and formed only one paragraph in Child Care and the Growth of Love, a lengthy book covering all aspects of childcare. Bowlby, who was far from dogmatic, altered his stance later and made it clear he was against children under 13 going to boarding schools.

There is a growing consensus which sees the quality of the reciprocal relationship between the baby and mother or primary caregiver as crucial to developing a “secure base” from which to progress into satisfying later relationships. This approach is endorsed by the findings of the Institute for Social and Economic Research that babies “fed on demand” have higher IQs.

Emerald Davis
Chair of the Bowlby Centre