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Why Love Matters: How Affection Shapes a Baby's Brain

4.32  ·  Rating details ·  1,463 ratings  ·  108 reviews
Why Love Matters explains why love is essential to brain development in the early years of life, particularly to the development of our social and emotional brain systems, and presents the startling discoveries that provide the answers to how our emotional lives work.

Sue Gerhardt considers how the earliest relationship shapes the baby's nervous system, with lasting consequ
Paperback, 256 pages
Published January 1st 2005 by Routledge (first published January 7th 2003)
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Popular Answered Questions
Alex Hi Federica,
You asked if the book contains professional jargon.
There is a fair bit of that going on and I suppose you have to have an initial interest…more
Hi Federica,
You asked if the book contains professional jargon.
There is a fair bit of that going on and I suppose you have to have an initial interest in psychology and cognitive function to find the book fascinating. The author does however offer plenty of explanatory comments and case studies that make it easy to understand for those of us whose profession doesn't involve psychobabble.
If you haven't read it yet, perhaps you could have a look at the PDF on amazon? It sets the pace for the rest of the book, which is 200 page plus. See if you like it. I sure did.(less)

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Aug 18, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people interested in psychology.
Shelves: non-fiction
This book changed my life. Really. I had never thought about social development in the terms in which Gerhardt proposes. And I've never been so self-aware. Still, sometimes I can't help thinking ignorance is bliss... ...more
Oct 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Potential parents
Fascinating book giving a solid argument for importance of empathic and responsive care in early infancy. The care we receive as babies sews the seeds for future adult relationships and how feelings are regulated psychologically and physiologically. If a baby is not regulated well by the parent he will find it difficult to regulate his own feelings as an adult. Being cared for by a depressed and unresponsive mother can have a devastating effect on a babies ability to develop good secure coping m ...more
Sep 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This book has been an amazing discovery. The way the author has been able to translate recent hard-science evidence into intelligible information is great. I'd like this book to be made compulsory reading at university, when one is mature enough to reflect about what it means to create a new life, and to try to gather information about our own infancy and how it may influence our emotions around parent-motherhood. This book is an invitation to think, not only about family but also about society, ...more
Nov 17, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: psychology
Why Love Matters is a very read-able and accessible foray into the world of attachment between a baby and their caregiver. Gerhardt uses scientific evidence to illustrate the importance of a loving bond but does so in a way that is easy to follow. I believe that this book is useful for practitioners but also invaluable for parents.
Susan Okeefe
Aug 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is such a fantastic read. The author explains in easy to understand writing how important the relationship is between mother( main caretaker) and child the first 6 months of life. The amount of stress a baby feels can affect brain development and how stress is dealt with for the rest of his life. Not tending to a babies' needs can have disastrous results for the baby.

I especially enjoyed the research studies done in this area.
Artemis D Bear
Jun 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book blew my mind. Along with Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn it's one of the most important books on parenting I've read. Drawing together compellingly presented, well researched evidence from neuroscience, psychology, psychoanalysis and biochemistry, Sue Gerhart provides an excellent account of why a developing brain requires responsive nurture. ...more
Apr 09, 2010 rated it it was ok
Too technical for what I wanted, haven't finished it and won't. Great if you want the scientific details. I want love and hugs matter kinda stuff. ...more
Jul 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
Thought-provoking, challenging, worrying and informative. An important read for parents, especially first time parents who are particularly vulnerable to often well-intentioned but misguided advice. This book looks at how stress under the age of two affects a baby's brain and social development, and how our early parenting choices-to leave baby to cry or not-can affect the long term physical and emotional health of our children, and by extension, the health of our society.
This book presents the
Feb 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
FANTASTIC! Recommended reading for my Neuroscience for Therapists course, this has been a joy to read, in no way the chore I was anticipating. Written by a British author (sorry my American friends, but what a lovely change!) this has revealed the complexities and nuances of baby and child development in a comprehensible and fascinating manner. Here's a non-p.c. "should": should be required reading for all parents. ...more
May 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Amazing book. Everyone should read this, especially parents or to-be parents. This book showed me why I react to stressors the way I do and how I can change my reactions. It also hopefully will stop the cycle so my daughter will be raised differently than how I was.
Aug 02, 2011 added it
this is an amazing and important book - as a psychology student it's really helped me fine-tune my interests - this is the kind of book anyone around children or anyone interested in the improvement of life for all should really read - that includes everyone from parents to politicians ...more
Jan 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This book supports the theory I made in my own book that trauma suffered in childhood can severely affect your health both as a child and in later life.
Bjoern Rochel
Sep 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014
Very important content, but a bit hard and exhausting to read
Gaby (GNTxREADs)
May 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is hugely informative although slightly heavy in places. A basic psychological knowledge is useful to fully absorb the concepts with this book. Touching on attachment, neuropsychology, biology and social care, this title uses real life examples throughout to emphasise important factors in early childhood development. Would definitely recommend to professionals and parents.
Paul Johnston
Apr 17, 2013 rated it it was ok
A strange book. Easy to read (although it gets rather repetitive) and with some interesting information on the scientific evidence of the impact of relationships on the brain, but the interrelationship between the claims about brain states and the psychotherapeutic insights is rather uncertain. Sometimes she just seems to be translating normal things we might say about what someone was thinking/feeling into talk about brain states (so a sentence like: "he was stressed and then became frightened" ...more
Christina Cater
Jun 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This book was wonderful in simplifying the underlying science behind why the first year of development is so important in influencing long term self-regulation as we grow. I also enjoyed the discussion of the limitations in our current system of child care in meeting the best practices for infant attachment and emotional development. I particularly think that for skeptics of the importance of early childhood development, this book sheds light on the value of high quality early care/educators/edu ...more
Oct 01, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Every mother should read this book.
Catarina Falk-cerri
Aug 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
its a must read for the whole world
May 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is utterly incredible. I started reading it as, thorough work, I’m being expected to explain to new parents how responsive parenting supports their baby’s long term wellbeing. I haven’t been given any more training than that sentence. So I thought I would read this and get some background, so that if a pair of clued up parents started asking me deeper questions, I’d be able to answer.

I got more than I bargained for. I have learned so much about the effects of stress during pregnancy an
Mar 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
This an important and well-written book. It does a compelling job of articulating just how high the stakes are when it comes to parenting. It also makes it clear that simply going with your gut and using your intuition may well serve you wrong as a parent.

Of course, it's worth mentioning that this book isn't really aimed at parents. I only realised towards the end that Gerhardt's goal with this book is to motivate a change in public policy towards social interventions earlier in a child's life.
Eliade Weismann
Oct 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I was not ready to go into this book. From the cover, I guessed that I would be in for a short read, something with that well-known fluffy language we find in the common book on parenting, which I would skim for details and move on from immediately. First chapter, full stop. A wave of recognition hits me-- the material here is increasingly the same material that I have been studying to put in my own book. At this point, I've seen serious thematic parallels with what I want to write so many times ...more
Telma Baptista
I love this book and I think it's mandatory to anyone who works with children or to therapists.

(although, if you're a new parent, I suggest you start by reading "Besame Mucho" by Carlos Gonzalez, who talks about the same in a more practical way without the scientific terms, articles and studies.)

The author explains, supported by studies, how important the affection from a caregiver is important do teach a child to regulate emotions. Instead, we insist on punishment, screaming or rewards to sto
Sep 07, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Painfully repetitive but painfully moving, this well referenced book outlines the origin and nature of psychopathology from the perspective of attachment theory. The book is mainly about prevention rather than cure as the former is always much easier. However, plasticity of the human brain renders nothing totally impossible. The book in a way is an indictment of our materialistic and goal-driven society. There is quite an amount of neuroscience covered but skipping them probably will not impair ...more
Aug 07, 2018 rated it liked it
This book was recommended on a parenting board regarding discussions on whether to let a baby cry it out or not. It was an interesting, and at the same time a somewhat depressing, read. I found it accessible though it was not dumbed down in any way (the workings of the brain including the chemicals produced are covered in sufficient detail). It was good to see acknowledgements that adequate caregiving does not necessarily have to be provided by the mother all the time. Perhaps a larger Part 3 'T ...more
Yvonne Baxter
Oct 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Scientific explanation for what we instinctively know is true.

This is a summery of the research, written for all of us, and so important for understanding how the way we parent our children early on has physical consequences in terms of their brain development.
I would recommend thus to all new parents but also to anyone involved in policy making - it could save society a lot of money and give future generations a chance of greater emotional well -being that would last for centuries to come.
Lizzie Cox
Feb 21, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Honestly one of the most insightful and interesting books I have ever read about neuroscience and infant development, Gerhardt speaks at an academic level without being too difficult. The research selected is absolutely fascinating. She has so clearly backed up her writing with plenty of research from the time, whilst also weaving in stories and examples which bring colour and clarity to the real-life aspects and examples of brain development. Must read, I will definitely be buying my own copy t ...more
Arpine Grigoryan
I started reading this book thinking that it will be like a guide for a better parenting, but it turned out to be more like a professional literature intended for psychologists. It has some very detailed descriptions of how the brain works, which was fascinating anyway. Didn't contain much novelty for myself, but I think that the information that this book contains and the overall message is crucial for some new parents. Much of the examples are intuitive for most parents, but they are neverthel ...more
Jan 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
This book is a game changer when thinking about tackling the rise in mental health problems. It’s all well and good to increase provision of counselling and mental health services but long term we should be aiming to educate parents in how to nurture mentally healthy children.
The book is hard work to read due to the amount of medical information included. Perhaps a more parent-friendly version could be produced!
Chloe Anne
Jun 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Perfect for anyone working with parents, or with babies. Teachers, social workers, psychologists, child worker wannabes - should read this! Parents should read this! A fascinating and understandable look into how important love is for babies, and how, unfortunately, due to their own traumas why some parents are unable to give the love that babies need. It's a brilliant read into the complex world of attachment and infant mental health. ...more
Acacia Rickard-Porse
Nov 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
I read this as a recommendation from my boss, a Clinical Psychologist, while pregnant. While it's not your standard "prepping for baby" book it was very interesting and gave in-depth psychological information about raising babies, attachment and the development of the brain. Not for anyone wanting a cushy developmental guide, this book gets deep into the neuropsychological basis of love and the need babies have for consistent affection. ...more
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