The Youngest Minds: Parenting and Genetic Inheritance in the Development of Intellect and Emotion

Ann B. Barnet, Author, Richard J. Barnet, Joint Author
Ann B. Barnet, Author, Richard J. Barnet, Joint Author Simon & Schuster $26 (352p) ISBN 978-0-684-81537-4
Reviewed on: 06/29/1998
Release date: 07/01/1998
Paperback - 356 pages - 978-0-684-85440-3
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This husband-and-wife team, she a pediatric neurologist, he a veteran author (Global Reach, etc.), jumps into the debate over the relative importance of genetics vs. environment in shaping human personality. Explaining recent work in language acquisition and emotional development (including empathy and morality), they provide an accessible summary of our current state of knowledge of brain development and chemistry while placing significantly greater emphasis on the role played by environmental factors. The Barnets offer ample evidence suggesting that the quality and quantity of stimulation experienced by children, especially in the first three years of life, directly influences the structure of a child's brain, creating neural networks that would otherwise not be present. They also summarize a wealth of studies indicating that Head Start and other early-intervention programs have had a huge impact on the long-term well-being of children. Although the book is in part being marketed as a guide to parenting, beyond the seemingly obvious (talk and read to children, tell them you love them, provide lots of hugs), there is little that will be of use in assisting parents to shape a daily routine. Surprisingly, for instance, no mention is made of recent research demonstrating the importance of music in cognitive development. Nonetheless, the Barnets present a compelling overview of an expanding field. (July)
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