The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Child Development
Brian Hopkins, Ronald G. Barr, George F. Michel & Philippe Rochat (Eds)
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 2005; Hb £80.00 (ISBN 0 521 65117)
Reviewed by Deborah Riby
THIS is a substantial encyclopedia
covering various aspects of developmental psychology. It is rare that a
reader is able to obtain information on theory and methods as well as
current themes of research all in the same book, but this extensive
volume on child development fulfils all these goals.
Beginning with the concept of ‘development’, this book takes the reader on a journey through the history of developmental psychology. The reader then embarks on a survey of the relevant and important theories of development (e.g. the traditional nature/nurture debate) with chapters devoted to each theory in turn. The next section of the encyclopedia addresses the methods used to delve into the world of the infant or child to help formulate these theoretical arguments.
Subsequent chapters are concerned with selected topics relevant to developmental psychologists today (each written by prominent researchers in their field). Just
to give a taste of the topics included, we see chapters devoted to social development, language, memory, temperament and imitation. Developmental pathology is included in a following section, again with chapters written by leading experts, for example Simon Baron-Cohen discusses autism and Margaret Snowling tackles issues relevant to dyslexia. At the very end of this volume the link between developmental psychology and other areas of research is discussed to give the ‘bigger picture’. For example, links with behavioural genetics and cognitive neuroscience are addressed, emphasising the way forward for these disciplines and domains of developmental research.
With just a small number of pages dedicated to each topic of research (each chapter) the reader is provided with a brief but concise introduction, along with suggestions for further reading. Pulling together aspects of theory, methodology and interesting research on a variety of developmental topics, this comprehensive guide makes a useful reference source for students, whether asking a question of a specific topic of research, or seeing where this topic fits in with other aspects of development. But this hardback book comes with a high price tag and is therefore more likely to be a good library source.
n Deborah Riby is a postgraduate student at Stirling University.
Maidenhead: Open University Press; 2005; Pb £7.99 (ISBN 0 335 21822 9)
Reviewed by Miriam Landor
I THOUGHT sadly from the opening pages that Dr Levin wasn’t writing for me – a mature postgraduate approaching a first dissertation after decades of academic and professional studies – but rather for first-time undergraduates. The tone seemed didactic and avuncular.
Nevertheless, I had a review to write, so I kept reading. And I have to admit, this book is, well… excellent! Simply and succinctly it takes you through each stage of planning a dissertation. You are helped to clarify mutual expectations with your supervisor, to distinguish between your project and your dissertation, and to explore literature before selecting your subject. There are useful chapters on making your literature review manageable and on managing the ‘end-game’ by assessing how much (or little) more project work is needed before beginning to write.
Somewhat sheepishly, I am recommending this book to my fellow students – and adopting it as my road map for the next nine months.
n Miriam Landor is an educational psychologist in training at Dundee University.
Not a classical approach
Encyclopaedic Dictionary of Psychology
Graham Davey (Ed)
London: Hodder Arnold; 2005; Hb £125.00 (ISBN 0 340 81252 4)
Reviewed by Helen Ross
THIS encyclopedia aims to give definitions and short articles about
the main topics within psychology, at a level suitable from school to postgraduate. It thus represents a view of the current syllabus for academic psychology.
It would seem that students learn much detailed physiology and statistics, and a lot of social and clinical psychology. They also study cognitive psychology, but they no longer learn much about classical approaches to perception and learning. Helmholtz and Hull are not listed in the index. Size constancy is reduced to a short definition – ‘the tendency to perceive the size of a rigid object in a consistent manner, despite variations in viewing distance’. If I didn’t know better, I would find this confusing. What about wobbly objects and inconsistent manners? Meanwhile, on the opposite page, the Stroop effect gets a long entry with a diagram and five references. Perhaps this is a fair representation of what is taught nowadays.
Some of the definitions seem exceedingly obvious. Even schoolchildren can guess what is meant by ‘partners-in-crime’, ‘grammar’ and ‘paternal interaction’. It would be a better use of space to cut down on this and give more detailed definitions of difficult concepts.
A large section of the book is devoted to research methods and statistics, even including a table of z scores and p values. This is unusual for an encyclopedia, and
I wonder whether the editors hoped that this book might take the place of a statistics textbook. It is unlikely to do so at the hardback price. Students would be well advised to wait for the paperback edition, which is due out this month at £35. The book would then be a useful supplement to their other course texts, particularly if they read through the section on conceptual and historical issues.
n Dr Helen Ross is with the University of Stirling.
The Science of Reading: A Handbook
Margaret Snowling & Charles Hulme (Eds)
Oxford: Blackwell; 2005; Hb £95.00
(ISBN 1 4051 1488 6)
Reviewed by Lucy Brown-Wright
THIS compendium presents a
state-of-the-art review of research investigating the science of
reading. The distinguished contributions made by both editors to the
area, offer an indication of the quality of work included throughout.
A multidisciplinary and international overview of contemporary knowledge about reading and related skills is offered. It follows a logical sequence and considers the fundamental domains, including processes of word recognition, theories of literacy development, reading comprehension and impairments. The handbook is comprehensive, and it considers recent trends in cross-linguistic research alongside studies of dyslexia in different languages. A focus is placed on disorders of reading and spelling and current research on acquired and developmental dyslexia. The impact of hearing and language impairments on the process of reading is also included.
Throughout the book, the reader is reminded of the historical perspective as theoretical models are reviewed and subsequently integrated with contemporary thinking, informed by empirical research at every juncture. A biological framework of reading is upheld, and both brain-imaging and genetic approaches are discussed. Technical advances are introduced and methodological issues, alongside the dangers of over-interpretation, lend further credibility to the information presented.
In order to grapple successfully with the central issues discussed in the majority of the chapters, some prior knowledge of current empirical thinking is assumed. However, some contributions are impressively accessible, given the intricacy of material discussed. Kate Nation’s chapter on reading comprehension is a case in point: she takes the reader through the central issues and points of discussion with immense clarity.
A section on the teaching of reading and proposed interventions is obviously a fundamental part of the handbook. However, the relatively small section given to remediation was disappointing. The question of how best to assimilate current research into intervening and effective teaching in the current educational system was left without adequate discussion. For someone seeking to inform themselves about application, the lack of weight placed on this section failed to do justice to the intricacy of thought put forward in the majority of the book.
All in all, this handbook undoubtedly offers a definitive collection of papers summarising current thinking on the science of reading. It will appeal to those with a specialist interest, who seek to inform their knowledge further through empirical research.
n Dr Lucy Brown-Wright is a clinical psychologist at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, London.
How to Be a Student: 100 Great Ideas and Practical Habits for Students Everywhere
Sarah Moore & Maura Murphy
Maidenhead: Open University Press; 2005; Pb £12.99 (ISBN 0 335 21652 8)
Reviewed by Jeremy Dean
FLICKING through this handbook for students entering higher education, it's easy to find practical and sensible information. It has 100 topics ranging from developing study skills through to managing your social life. With all this information crammed into 135 pages, the book is broad in scope but, ultimately, a victim of its format.
There are relevant topics throughout, dealing with boredom, watching out for study drift and understanding plagiarism. The authors even tackle more novel topics, like appreciating that students are not customers, while lecturers are not primarily entertainers. There are also helpful insights into the harsh criticisms sometimes doled out by markers to written work.
Unfortunately, much of the book suffers from the limited space. As a result, the authors are forced to equivocate: study enough, but not too much, sleep enough, but not too much. In some areas a more focused approach would have better served the reader. To accommodate this, less important advice, like sitting up straight, could have been cut to make way for more on, for example, playfulness in learning and the use of memory techniques.
There is certainly much here to help students through higher education, but it is somewhat diminished by the limited depth.
n Jeremy Dean is a freelance writer on psychology.
Handbook of Resilience in Children
Sam Goldstein & Robert B. Brooks (Eds)
New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Press; 2005; Hb £95.00 (ISBN 0 306 48571 0)
Reviewed by Chris Boyle
WHILST the vast majority of research
referred to in this publication is US-based, there is definite
generalisablility across national boundaries. Goldstein and Brooks
present an authoritative and seemingly exhaustive account of the many
issues around resilience in children. The hardback ‘manual’ is split
into five areas, which provide an overview of the current research
literature through to considering what can be done to shape the future
of children in a positive way. Strategies are discussed that reflect
the influence of parents, schools and, in Shure and Aberson’s chapter,
the concept of ‘effective thinking’.
There is some interesting discussion about whether a child who is inwardly displaying signs of distress can be regarded as resilient, continuing into the debate of what exactly is resilience. Also discussed is the role that schools can serve as a protective factor for children’s development and functioning, which hitherto has been neglected in general child development literature.
Overall, this publication is remarkable in its depth and impressive in its general readability and accessibility to the reader. the Handbook of Resilience is a complete compendium of current research in this area and complements the excellent Resilience and Vulnerability edited by Suniya S. Luthar (Cambridge University Press, 2003).
n Chris Boyle is a Chartered Educational Psychologist with South Lanarkshire Council Psychological Services.
Understanding the context
Rome or Death: The Obsessions of General Garibaldi
London: Jonathan Cape; 2005; Hb £16.99 (ISBN 0 224 07179 3)
Reviewed by Lorraine Childs
HOW much do we need to know about
people to understand the development of their psychopathology? In
clinical practice it is always a problem to know when to stop
collecting the biographical facts and when to move towards a
In this book Pick has indulged in exploring his subject from every angle, intertwining facts and formulation without apology. Not only does he describe the life of the man, General Giuseppe Garibaldi, but also the historical and social context
of the time, placing the individual psyche within the contemporary zeitgeist. How much passion Pick must have for his subject is evident. His literary knowledge of this age is worthy of a seat in Mastermind; furthermore, answerable to no one in the sphere of psychological practice, he has illustrated his text with gilded romanticism. This, however, does not distract the reader from the core storyline of the book, which highlights Garibaldi’s military role in the unification of Italy and his ongoing passion, thwarted by bureaucracy to re-route the Tiber from its destructive, malarial course through Rome.
This was a fascinating glimpse into Italian history with a biographical backdrop and a psychoanalytical formulatory framework. This reflects the author’s professional background in cultural history and psychoanalysis. It’s committed, inspiring and demonstrative of the need to understand the context within which an individual exists, in order to understand the individual themselves. From this perspective it’s a great semi-professional read. However, it’s also an enjoyable socio-historical text that’s a pleasure in itself and would be of particular interest to those who are thinking of taking a trip to Rome!
n Dr Lorraine Childs is a clinical psychologist at St Andrews Hospital, Northampton.
Gain and loss
On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five Stages of Loss
Elizabeth Kübler-Ross & David Kessler
London: Simon & Schuster; 2005; Pb £10.99
(ISBN 0 7432 6344 8)
Reviewed by Tina Perry
KÜBLER-Ross once said: ‘Listen to the dying, they will tell you all you need to know.’ Never has this statement been truer than in reference to this, her last, book. While Kübler-Ross, who died in August 2004, was a forerunner in grief research, this is by no means an academic text, recounting stories of individual loss and discussing issues such as angels and the afterlife.
Yet, this is not a weakness. For those in the midst of grief, the text verbalises those unspoken feelings that you feel no one else could understand. For those caring for someone grieving, it offers you previously unavailable insight into their world. An essential guide to grieving.
n Tina Perry is a postgraduate student at the University of Central Lancashire.
Has Science Displaced the Soul?
Debating Love and Happiness
Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield; 2005; Hb £14.99
(ISBN 0 7425 4264 5)
Reviewed by Thomas Marshall
WITH chapter titles like, ‘Happiness,
love, and the divine’, no one could suggest that Kevin Sharpe is being
tentative with regard to subject matter. In fact, in addressing these
topics Sharpe is turning his attention to problems that have been the
focus of intellectual and artistic endeavour for thousands of years:
those of love and happiness. And it is a challenge to which he rises
Boasting doctorates in theology and mathematics, Sharpe makes his unifying approach clear from the outset. This is not a rejection of religious dogma, nor (thankfully) is it a treatise on the proof of intelligent design theory. Instead the book takes us on a journey through ancient and modern perspectives on love and happiness, systematically pointing out where the two differ and – perhaps more importantly – where they do not. The book is peppered with interesting anecdotes from world religion and philosophy – Mohists, Confucianists and Taoists share space with Aristotle and Plato. These are juxtaposed in turn with very recent research in neuroscience and evolutionary psychology, the latter forming the bulk of the central portion of the book.
Sharpe’s own conclusions – including a reworking of fundamental assumptions regarding the divine – are not as dramatic as is suggested in the book itself. They are in fact sensible and measured, and will offer hope to many readers who – like myself – believe strongly in the utility of scientific and spiritual insights. Where so much of the debate in this area involves pointing out the flaws in alternative arguments, it is refreshing to have the positives on both sides so clearly laid out. Even the penultimate chapter concerning the subjectivity of science – a topic so often misunderstood and badly explained – is comprehensible and succinct.
This is above all an accessible book, with short chapters and few references. Weighing in at a mere 154 pages (for the main body of the text) it can be read without a dictionary on standby, and absorbed in one sitting. Not bad considering it covers the most hotly debated topics in human history. An excellent, enjoyable introduction to the topic.
n Thomas Marshall is a graduate of the University of Cardiff.
Metaphor in Culture:
Universality and Variation
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 2005;
Hb £45.00 (0 521 84447 9)
Reviewed by Ange Drinnan
THE title of this book intrigued me with
the bait of metaphor, but I was momentarily alarmed on opening it by
the cognitive linguistic language of ‘master tropes’, ‘target domains’
and ‘cross space mappings’. However, I was soon sucked in by some
fascinating cross-cultural and anthropological examples.
Kövecses sets out to explain universality and diversity in metaphorical thought, with the wider aim of working towards an understanding of the role of metaphor in culture(s). En route, he explores how metaphors vary between and within cultures and asks fundamental questions, such as whether metaphors occur in thought rather than simply in language. I was particularly interested in the notion of ‘embodiment’ – how our sensory experiences influence the metaphors we develop.
The book is certainly thorough and provides a good overview of existing theories before going on to develop these. At points, the examples become somewhat repetitive and risk losing some of the magic of metaphor, however this is balanced by later discussion of metaphor in literature, film and in the rhetoric and performance of politics.
As a clinical psychologist working within a community mental health team,
I was disappointed not to see any reference to psychosis and the relationship between metaphor and delusion. However, this was perhaps beyond the scope of what is essentially an informative, readable and at times entertaining overview of metaphor and culture.
n Dr Ange Drinnan is with Stepping Stones CMHT, Bromley.
BPS Members can discuss this article
Already a member? Or Create an account
Not a member? Find out about becoming a member or subscriber