This book is a beautifully written account of the first three years of a child’s life, as seen through the detailed observations of her father – the author Charles Fernyhough – who happens to be a developmental psychologist as well as an obviously doting parent.
It’s well-known that few of us have clear memories of what life was like before we reached the age of three or four; what did the world look, sound, taste and smell like? How did we learn to connect up our senses so that we begin to understand that what we see also has a texture, a shape and ultimately a separate existence to ourselves? What brain structures are we born with and how do they help us form the building blocks of a more sophisticated awareness and understanding of the world? How do we as parents affect and influence our child’s development, and how much of it is hard-wired into us by evolution?
Looking for answers
Charles Fernyhough’s fascinating description of his daughter’s early years appealed to me for two reasons; I enjoyed the very personal and gently observed story of Athena and her relationships with her parents and her world, and how these change as she grows up; and I was also gripped by the fascinating insights into the psychology and science of child development, using techniques (such as magnetic resonance imaging, for example) that were simply not available until comparatively recently, whilst also drawing deeply on the work of earlier researchers such as John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth (attachment theory), Lev Vygotsky (language development), and Jean Piaget (knowledge acquisition).
Why I would recommend this book
‘The Baby in the Mirror’ is a kind of thriller; at the end of the book, I felt a sense of awe at the scope of the developmental mountain human beings must climb in their first few years of life. It’s a story full of very human moments between Charles and his daughter, and seamlessly introduces snippets of scientific theory and fact, written in an easy-to-understand style. There’s something in it for everyone, whether you’re a parent, a therapist or simply someone interested in the truly extraordinary story of how we grow from babyhood to childhood.
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Therapists who work with: Bereavement.