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James, L. (1982). A Baby in the Family: By James and Joyce Robertson. London: Penguin Books. 1982.. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 9:498-499.

(1982). International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 9:498-499

A Baby in the Family: By James and Joyce Robertson. London: Penguin Books. 1982.

Review by:
Lydia James

This is a beautifully produced Penguin paperback costing £2.95. Photographs attractively mingle with text, and together they describe the development of a baby's attachment—and the parent's bonding from the first hours after birth until the age of one year. Although the Robertsons take a psychoanalyst's view of the first year, the book is being sold in ordinary bookshops throughout the country. It is intended as a help to first-time parents, those concerned practically with new families, and those who teach about the psychodynamics of the first year.

The detail and the naturalness arise from a unique situation. James Robertson (and other family members) took the photos. The two babies are his grandchildren. The two mothers his daughters. Some might feel these facts to be a recipe for disaster—in particular the risk of idealization, but the Robertsons took this risk knowing what they were doing—it is their belief that no outsider could capture the intimate moments of interaction between a baby and its parents and grandparents.

In this reviewer's opinion the result is a study of parent–infant interactions clothed with a speaking intimacy we do not usually find. There is an intensity of feeling—be it of anxiety or of pleasure—and it is written on the faces of all concerned, including grandparents—this gives the book an extraordinary degree of authenticity. It documents the realities of the first year.

The Robertson's earlier work on separation in the second year of life put flesh on a skeleton of theory we already know. It was presented in such a way that it changed the climate of opinion at the time. Many more hospitals throughout the world now allow parents into wards with their young children. This book also brings to life some observable phenomena of the dynamics of the first year. It will help first-time parents to know what to expect. There are also valuable chapters on special circumstances in families such as adoption or the management of events when parents or infants get ill. But the Robertsons are not seeking to change the climate of opinion in the way their work on separation did.

Their clear account of how bodily contact feeds the developing relationships does, however, have implications for mothers who choose to share their babies, these mothers being 'likely to be less in tune'. 'Impairing her empathy for him, and lowering his expectations of her.'

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