Book Review: The Science Inside the Child (Sara Meadows)

When it comes to children, I am a bit of a brain geek. Working out how children think and what wires their brains together is what fires me up in the morning. So The Science Inside the Child: the story of what happens when we’re growing up (Sara Meadows) ought to have been my ideal gift.

And it is a truly admirable book. Sara Meadows sets out to summarise everything that science currently tells us about how children develop. Encyclopaedic in scope, each chapter examines the science of children from a different angle – from genetics to psychoneuroendocrinology to epidemiology and beyond. A commitment to scientific method runs throughout this book and Meadows’ rigorous examination of the evidence base is welcome in a field where so many so-called ‘parenting experts’ base theories of bringing up children on anecdote and subjective experience.

But all that science makes a tough read. Meadows is clear from the outset that this is not a parenting manual and explicitly sets out not to translate the science into policy recommendations or practical advice. But the lack of interpretation left me constantly wondering “And? So what? How do I apply this?”

The result is a book packed full of facts in epic taster chapters on neuroscience, evolution and psychology which I can see myself referring back to for memory refreshers and starting points but in which there is simply too much science and not enough story.

Overall rating? 3/5

This review was originally published in the British Psychological Society’s journal BPS (Vol 29 No 7 July 2016). I received a free copy of the book from BPS for review purposes. The opinions expressed in this review are my own – I welcome comments and discussion!

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