Nurture Shock:
Why Everything We Think About Raising Our Children is Wrong

Po Bronson + Ashley MerryMan

Ebury Press 2009
A book review by Danny Yee © 2014
Nurture Shock contains ten chapters about recent research and findings on different aspects of raising children: praise, sleep, attitudes to race, lying, intelligence testing for early streaming, the effects of siblings, teen rebellion, teaching self-control, aggressive behaviour, and early language acquisition. Each of these chapters is entirely independent.

There's nothing radically novel in any of this, and it's certainly not as controversial or unexpected as the ridiculous subtitle (revised to "New Thinking About Children" in later editions) or the often overexcited tone suggests. But Nurture Shock offers some glimpses of recent work on child psychology and development, and there was a reasonable chunk of it that was new to me.

For each topic, Bronson and Merryman tend to focus on one or two researchers or programs (all in the United States) rather than surveying a larger body of work. And in places they are annoyingly light on the fundamentals and heavy on less convincing narrative — so we get a two-page story about one of them trying language learning methods on the 12-month-old daughter of some friends, anecdotes about how various school programs work really well, and a general absence of formal statistics (though there are plenty of individual potted numbers). There are over sixty pages of sources and references, sensibly broken down by chapter, but just twenty pages of notes supporting the claims in the text.

These limitations aside, Nurture Shock is a serious presentation of ideas, not "how to turn your toddler into a genius" pseudo-science. And it is easy to read. If the subject material is of interest, I recommend trying one of the chapters to see if the style and approach suit.

June 2014

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%T Nurture Shock
%S Why Everything We Think About Raising Our Children is Wrong
%A Bronson, Po
%A MerryMan, Ashley
%I Ebury Press
%D 2009
%O paperback, notes, bibliography, index
%G ISBN-13 9780091933784
%P 336pp