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Review of "Ages and Stages"

By Charles E. Schaefer
Wiley, 2000
Review by Tony Dickinson and Fiona Chan on Sep 22nd 2009
Ages and Stages

For both the newly becoming and experienced parent alike, this book is a gem for those wishing to learn what to expect of their children as they grow through developmental ages from birth to nine years. Of significant interest to those parents eager to prepare for a more all-rounded Baby-Impact developing baby, rather than simply a feed-and-grow Gymboree or BabyGym physical-activity based development, Schaefer and DiGeronimo provide a treasure box of tips and techniques for building a child's social, emotional interpersonal and cognitive skills. Guiding the reader through each of their twenty chapters using the same five component growth behavior indicators, clustered into divisions of four age range stages (0-18 mths, 18-36 mths, 36 mths to 6 years, and 6 years to 9 years), the component sections of each age range include emotional health, cognitive development, family and peer relationships, personal growth, and character formation.

Beginning each stage with a brief extract from a 'mother's diary', the empathy of the reader is quickly enhanced, as each relates typical observations of a child's natural growth and behavioral demonstrations from a parent's perspective. Schaefer & DiGeronimo would appear to have designed this 'guide book' especially for parents who are having their first baby, and are much concerned with discussing infant and child development in the context of outlining normal achievable milestones, only thereafter hinting at ways for individual milestone enhancement and/or interventions with regards the same normative behaviors. For example, tantrums are excellently discussed, explained (and yes, baby tantrums are quite 'normal' too!), with practical tips provided for coping/dealing with them, as and when they occur.

With the working parent also in mind, Schaefer & DiGeronimo also aim for this book to be both very functional and simple to explore. In this they surely succeed, and the reviewers believe that most parents will be able to readily acquire the general concepts of (and thus foster appropriate expectations concerning), the formation of normative human infant and child behavior, whilst also gaining significant parenting advice. For those unable or unwilling to spend many hours reading the text from cover to cover, pay keen attention to the do's and don'ts sections of each chapter (which they label 'parenting/consider' and 'avoid' respectively). We thoroughly recommend studying the "avoids", (and listing them on your kitchen notice board!) for absolute gems of child-rearing wisdom, at least in the case of the majority of them.

For those with the leisure and luxury to more deeply appreciate the rationales underlying their advice, Schaefer & DiGeronimo provide further references to the more technical/scientific literature, and occasional additional content concerned with the theoretical and academic basis of their claims. This might require an above average level of knowledge in order to be fully appreciated, though their inclusion of 'science to take home' sections will inform adequately for most readers. All told, this book is far more accessible and informative than most previous volumes with similar titles, and will thus suit the parent looking for a well-written and balanced account of what they might expect (and when), from the normally-developing child. One gripe for some readers might be felt in reading the rare occurrence of the occasional Christian-ethic undertone driving some of the moral-development sections, but the discerning parent can simply replace the terminology as appropriate to their own faith(s) -- the advice is nonetheless pretty sound. And, if uncomfortable with the seemingly negative advice of a "don't" -- remember that an 'avoid' can always be changed to offer the same advice in the positive sense as a 'do' (by simply avoiding the word "avoid", and remembering the latter exemplar part of the sentence only!). Enjoy, and be honest with yourself and your child(ren), this book is a gem, as can be every developing baby when watched closely over their formative years, with such knowledge to hand as this book provides.

© 2009 Tony Dickinson and Fiona Chan

Dr. Tony Dickinson and Fiona Chan, Academic Research Laboratory, People Impact International Inc.

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