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Clinical Child Psychology and

Psychiatry
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Book Reviews
Tony Charman
Clin Child Psychol Psychiatry 2001 6: 325
DOI: 10.1177/1359104501006002014
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BOOK REVIEWS

Philippe Rochat (Ed.), Early Social Cognition: Understanding Others in the First Months of
Life. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum, 1999. 341 pp. $79.95. ISBN 0-8058-2829-X.
T H I S I S A fascinating book that provides an up-to-date summary of some of the recent,
ingenious research within this particular field of infant developmental psychology. A
recurrent theme throughout the book is that the last 15 years of research has transformed
our understanding of infants cognitive and social capacities. Sometimes this has revealed
unexpected competencies (e.g. in the detection of temporal synchrony) and sometimes
what at face value appear to be surprising incompetencies (e.g. in following eye gaze in
the absence of peripheral targets). The focus of much of the work reported in the volume
is a childs first 12 months of life, although other important developments into the second
year of life are also covered.
The real strength of the book is the number of top-class invetigators who have
contributed summaries to their and others work. The emphasis, as my choice of reference to the chapter contributors suggests, is on empirical investigation. If this sounds at
all off putting then readers can be reassured that elegant and ambitious theorizing and
the framing of the big questions in psychology are not absent from the volume.
However, they are not allowed to run free, unconstrained from the checks and balances
that empirical data and hypothesis testing provide. Within the field, many advances in
technology and equipment have contributed to our ability to measure infants responses
to social and non-social stimuli, but perhaps the greatest advances, exemplified in many
of the chapters in this volume, have been due to rigorous and inventive experimentation.
Space does not allow me to mention more than a few examples or contributors individually. However, the work of Elliot Blass on the role of ostensibly social moderation
(eye contact) and ostensibly non-social moderation (sucking a sucrose solution) of 4week old babies crying behaviour, and the way in which the balance of these effects
changes throughout the first 12 weeks of life, was one example of a line of empirical work
(of which I was previously unaware) that challenges our concepts of how hardwired
physiological abilities, learning and social motivation interact in infant development.
Other highlights for me were the work on social mirroring and social-biofeedback by
Gyrgy Gergely and John Watson; and the work on infants preference for slightly
imperfect contingency in face-to-face interactions, and the way in which this might aid
the child in discriminating between familiar and unfamiliar social partners and thus form
the basis for attachment relationships, by Ann Bigelow. Each reader will have their own
particular favourite chapters.
Are there any weaknesses in the book? It is not an easy read as in many chapters the
reader has to take in a great deal of detail regarding experimental procedures. At times
these might be hard to follow if the methodologies are being encountered for the first
time. It is also sometimes difficult to navigate ones way around the 12 main chapters.
The topic matter and the chapter titles understandably have words and concepts in
common. A reader with an interest in learning about advances in our understanding of
one particular aspect of social cognition, or about social cognition in infants of a particular age, might not find what they want in this volume at the first attempt. There is a
helpful, contextualizing overview by Michael Tomasello at the end of the book and this
might have worked better as an extended preface or opening chapter, to help orient the
reader, in particular one unfamiliar with the empirical literature on infant social cognition from the 1980s and 1990s. In addition, for the readership of this Journal it should
be noted that clinical issues and populations are only mentioned in passing in a few of
the chapters. Notwithstanding this, many of the contributors are alive to the possibilities
for advancing our clinical knowledge, and the context of understanding early child

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CLINICAL CHILD PSYCHOLOGY AND PSYCHIATRY 6(2)

development, in which this takes place, and contributors such as Daniel Stern and
Jacqueline Nadel provide more direct clinical integration of their ideas in their writing
elsewhere.
In summary, the volume is a timely and fascinating update of the state of our knowledge of infant social cognition. I recommend it to those interested in this topic (as a dip
in-and-out rather than a back-to-front read), particularly if their last top-up was over
1015 years ago.
Tony Charman
Institute of Child Health, London, UK

David Howe, Marian Brandon, Diana Hinings and Gillian Schofield, Attachment
Theory, Child Maltreatment and Family Support. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum, 1999. 312 pp. $24.50.
ISBN 0-8058-3537-7.
I T WA S a joy to read this book for many reasons. It is easy to read, full of good vignettes
and relevant for practice. Throughout, it addressed the question of how to understand
children and their caregivers. Through applying a detailed analysis of the processes
associated with the different attachment patterns, one is helped to modify ones
approach to maximize growth in children and their parents. It empowers all who work
with children, to help make children as secure as possible. A particular joy was that it
did not aim to send all maltreated children for therapy. Child psychiatry is not
mentioned, but the vulnerability of abused children to develop psychiatric disorders is
there.
Empowering those who work with maltreated children and their families requires that
the details of the processes which arise between parents and children, as well as their
respective relations to the professionals involved, are described in detail. This the
authors do well. They risk confusing the reader a little when they introduce the possibilities for mixed AC and A/C types of attachment first over half way through the book,
and without further introduction. This is an important area for clarification for those
developing attachment theory, and so it is not surprising that the authors leave it hanging
a little in the air. Practitioners will expect to see children who have been both abused
and neglected. The combination is more often associated with the mixed A/C classification, in which one or the other strategy is employed depending on different threats to
security one through neglect, the other danger. Only when the two insecure strategies
develop into an integrated whole, when the individual cannot rely on either the cognitive information available or the affective information, do we begin to use the AC
description associated with psychopathy.
The authors mention various techniques which enable one to obtain relational
perspectives. One which I found very useful, but not included here, is the kinetic family
drawing technique of Burns and Kaufman (1971), which would have aroused greater
interest had it been published when attachment theory was flourishing.
Practitioners in the helping professions do not come from a cross-section of society as
regards their attachment strategies. Supervision during professional development needs
to address the attachment issues which arise in working with maltreated children and
their families from the perspective of the worker. Supervision is mentioned on the last
page of the book. I hope the authors keep this text up to date as new knowledge within
the attachment paradigm becomes available. I would like them to include a chapter on
how some people who choose the helping professions can get caught in their own

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