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Chamberlain, D.B. (1987). The Cognitive Newborn: A Scientific Update. Brit. J. Psychother., 4(1):30-71.

(1987). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 4(1):30-71

The Cognitive Newborn: A Scientific Update

David B. Chamberlain

What is a baby if not a lower animal in human form?

Luis deGranada, 1555 AD


With more than a decade yet to go, the twentieth century is sure to be the one in which humanity discovered the true capabilities of the newborn. Hidden behind a veil of ignorance through most of human history, infants have been typically regarded as primitive, animalistic, subhuman beings without feelings and without rights; they are one of the last large categories of persons still discriminated against, ignored and abused (DeMause 1982, chap. 1).

In just a short time so much has been discovered about newborns that those with inside knowledge celebrate them for their ‘remarkable talents’ (Brazelton 1978, p. 187), find them ‘amazing’ (Klaus & Klaus 1985), ‘uniquely precocious’ (Papousek & Papousek 1986, p. 1), an ‘extremely competent social organism, an extremely competent learning organism, and extremely competent perceiving organism’ (Bower 1977, p. 35).

Between 1950, when only about 500 scientific papers about infants could be counted world-wide, and 1970 research multiplied so much that one review had to encompass 2000 published manuscripts (Kessen, Haith & Salapatek 1970). By now even that number is small, with dozens of journals publishing articles on a regular schedule, many universities constantly engaged in infancy research, and several newly-formed professional associations in psychology, psychiatry, and social work focusing scholarly attention on perinatal psychology.

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