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Drake, N.W. (1994). The Earliest Relationship: Parents, Infants, and the Drama of Early Attachment. By T.B. Brazelton & B.G. Cramer. Karnac. £15.95 paperback. Pp. 272.. Psychoanal. Psychother., 8(1):89-89.

(1994). Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, 8(1):89-89

The Earliest Relationship: Parents, Infants, and the Drama of Early Attachment. By T.B. Brazelton & B.G. Cramer. Karnac. £15.95 paperback. Pp. 272.

Review by:
Nollaig W Drake

This book is the outcome of an innovative collaboration between two eminent professors in the fields of paediatrics and child psychiatry. Dr Brazelton is a world-renowned paediatrician and expert on child development, while Dr Cramer is a professor of child psychiatry, a practising psychoanalyst, and a pioneer of mother-infant psychotherapy. Their book represents the authors’ wish to integrate the separate and distinctive contributions from their related fields. They bring insights from developmental psychology, infancy research, and psychoanalysis to bear on the period from a baby's conception through the early months of life.

The book is set out in five parts with an extensive reference section at the end. The first part looks at the development of attachment from the beginnings of a desire to have a child, through the fantasies and preparatory work of pregnancy, and this is discussed from the different viewpoints of both parents. Part 2 introduces us to the baby, and describes what he brings to the relationship from the point of view of developmental psychology and infancy research. In part 3, past and present interaction studies are reviewed and the authors’ own systems model for interaction is described; and in part 4 the fantasies often underlying these objective observations are discussed. Finally, the complementarity of the authors’ approach is demonstrated through nine case-histories illustrating common clinical problems faced by those who work with young families.

The authors argue that the process of understanding the earliest relationship in itself constitutes an intervention, and at best can be seen as a powerful agent of change. They offer some guidelines for work with parents and infants which can be used in a range of clinical situations.

I found this an interesting and enjoyable book to read, and I think it will be of considerable value to all those working with mothers and babies, whether as paediatricians, child psychiatrists, or psychotherapists, midwives, health visitors or social workers; and also to parents themselves.

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