New research re-imagines human development as fundamentally group-based

12 FEBRUARY 2024

New research re-imagines human development as fundamentally group-based

A new book by a leading Charles Sturt University psychology academic and colleagues challenges current childcare policies, practices and assumptions underpinning notions about ‘single infant-adult attachment’ for healthy development.

  • A new book by researchers demonstrates babies enjoy interacting in groups
  • The book, Babies in Groups, to be launched on Tuesday 27 February in Sydney, shows babies find sustained pleasure in engagement with groups long before they have formed their first one-to-one bond with an adult
  • This has implications for science, early education practice and policy, and for adult psychotherapy

A new book by a leading Charles Sturt University psychology academic and colleagues challenges current childcare policies, practices and assumptions underpinning notions about ‘single infant-adult attachment’ for healthy development.

The book, Babies in Groups – Expanding Imaginations, is written by Emeritus Professor Ben Bradley and co-authors Dr Jane Selby and Mr Matthew Stapleton.

Both Professor Bradley and Dr Selby, a clinical psychologist, are adjuncts in Charles Sturt’s School of Psychology. Mr Stapleton is CEO of Centre Support, a company that supports the operations of many of the Long Day Care Centres in Australia.

Babies in Groups explores the implications of its authors’ discovery that babies enjoy participating in groups well before they have formed their first one-to-one attachment with a caring adult.

Film evidence from two high-quality centres for early education and care shows the transformative effects of prioritising group arrangements across many settings – infant mealtimes, learning and play – both for babies and for educators.

“Our book shows that appreciating the true complexity of infants’ social lives depends on prolonged observation and rich descriptions of free-form infants-only group-behaviour – whether in a university studio or in daycare – something which scientists have never done before, so far as I know,” Professor Bradley said.

Based on this evidence, the authors argue that current childcare policies, clinical practices and professional assumptions about parenting, childcare and healthy development are mistaken in giving primary importance to infants’ one-to-one ‘attachments’ to adults.

They show that these assumptions are not based on good science, and have misogynistic and culturally inappropriate consequences.

Babies in Groups goes on to detail how ignoring group contexts in many clinical traditions can distort descriptions of what happens in therapy, producing such unintended consequences as ‘mother-blaming’ and misunderstandings of how infants’ experiences may link to any future problems they may suffer when grown up.

The book summarises the several sources of evidence which falsify claims that science proves an inborn gift for dyadic communication, or for forming one-to-one infant-adult attachments, that grounds human development.

Babies in Groups is published by Oxford University Press and will be launched at 5pm on Tuesday 27 February at 47/52-60 Renwick St, Redfern, Sydney (corner of Renwick and Wells Streets).

Please RSVP to Mr Matthew Stapleton at matt@centresupport.com.au

Growing use of daycare for infants across Australia and internationally makes the book’s message particularly timely. For this reason, the authors have made it free to download.


Media Note:

To arrange interviews with Emeritus Professor Ben Bradley, contact Bruce Andrews at Charles Sturt Media on mobile 0418 669 362 or via news@csu.edu.au

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