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...