Music, Graham. Nurturing Natures: Attachment and Children's Emotional, Sociocultural, and Brain Development.
Article Type: Book review
Subject: Books (Book reviews)
Author: Losonczy-Marshall, Marta E.
Pub Date: 09/22/2011
Publication: Name: International Social Science Review Publisher: Pi Gamma Mu Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Social sciences Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2011 Pi Gamma Mu ISSN: 0278-2308
Issue: Date: Fall-Winter, 2011 Source Volume: 86 Source Issue: 3-4
Topic: NamedWork: Nurturing Natures: Attachment and Children's Emotional, Sociocultural, and Brain Development (Nonfiction work)
Persons: Reviewee: Music, Graham
Accession Number: 279722829
Full Text: Music, Graham. Nurturing Natures: Attachment and Children's Emotional, Sociocultural, and Brain Development. New York: Psychology Press, 2010, 314 pages. Paper, $42.50.

Graham Music's Nurturing Natures integrates current research in neuroscience with child development. It focuses on the intricate balance between nature (heredity) and nurture (environmental experiences) and how it affects physical, cognitive, social, and emotional development.

According to Music, brain development is influenced by experiences both before and after birth. Here, Music addresses experiences during the prenatal period and how they affect brain development. Prenatal stress, for example, can lead to the release of specific hormones which may affect neuronal development and result in a smaller head circumference at birth. From an evolutionary perspective, the author explains MacLean's triune brain: the reptilian brain, the mammalian brain (limbic system), and the neocortex. He then explains how experiences can influence the structure of the brain. This discussion is based on Hebb's idea of experiences filtered through neural pathways, which influence expectations for future experiences. Additionally, Music explores how experiences influence neurotransmitters and hormones and how those influence our feelings and behaviors. While early experiences are important, the brain continues to develop throughout childhood and adolescence.

Emotional development is discussed in several chapters that examine the period of infancy. Here, the author examines research that shows how humans are born with capacities to relate to others immediately after birth, and the importance of early caregiving on social and emotional development. Building on John Bowlby's attachment theory, Music explores the intricacies of early relationships and how these interactions can affect infant development. One example is how physical closeness and breastfeeding trigger the release of certain hormones that result in pleasurable feelings for both the baby and the mother. The author then studies how infants learn to cope with stress and how exaggerated coping mechanisms may become habitual patterns of coping. Infants learn coping mechanisms from early relationships. As psychiatrist John Bowlby, developmental psychologist Mary Ainsworth, child psychoanalyst Selma Fraiberg, and others have noted, the quality of interactions with caregivers influence the coping patterns that develop. Attachment theory and various types of attachments, such as secure, ambivalent, avoidant, and disorganized, which influence emotional development, are also discussed.

In discussing cognitive development, Music describes how early interactions lead to understanding the intentions of others. It is through interactions with others during infancy that individuals begin to develop expectations about others, as well as understanding others' intentions, which are often referred to as "theory of mind" skills. The author notes that circuits in the brain for imitation, language, and empathy are closely linked. Mirror neurons have been found to respond to watching others, which allows humans to imitate what they see others doing.

In regard to the development of communication, symbols, and language, Music states that early communication is more emotional in nature, and since it occurs before the development of words, memories are stored differently. Following the development of language, memories are stored in terms of words. The ability to use symbols is uniquely human, and allows for self-reflection. The ability to reflect on one's self allows for the development of a sense of self.

While early experiences are emphasized, Music also addresses the importance of cultural influences, devoting an entire chapter to this topic. Other important influences include the role of fathers, siblings, peers and non-maternal care (i.e., day care).

The author also investigates the effects of severe neglect, trauma, and abuse on childhood development. Music integrates information on both brain and emotional development, and explains how stress and trauma influence brain circuitry and behavior. Children who are severely neglected and abused experience high levels of stress, which release stress hormones that influence emotions, behavior, and brain organization. In discussing the influence of positive feelings and resilience, Music finds that resilient children are able to maintain a hopeful attitude despite bad experiences. Those who are resilient are better able to recover from bad experiences.

The author concludes that both nature and nurture are important aspects of child development. In fact, they work in tandem. While genetic inheritance predisposes individuals to certain conditions, it is the environmental experiences that trigger the genes to turn "on" or "off." Early environmental experiences during infancy appear to be important in laying down neural pathways that will influence our expectations of others as well as our behavioral coping patterns. Children who suffer neglect and abuse early are at risk for problems; those who receive early intervention are more likely to recover.

The book is well researched, written, and documented. Music uses attachment theory as a framework for discussing emotional and social development, and emphasizes the importance of early experiences on brain development and behavior. He explains difficult material in an understandable manner, often using good examples to illustrate difficult concepts. The book is written for anyone interested in the social and emotional development of children, and does not require expertise in understanding. It is appropriate for undergraduate students interested in the topic, as well as social workers and clinicians. It could be used in an undergraduate psychology course devoted to the study of social and emotional development of children.

Marta E. Losonczy-Marshall, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Psychology

Salisbury University

Salisbury, Maryland
Gale Copyright: Copyright 2011 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.