Sr. JOHN HUMPHREYS
Four Years Old in an Urban Community by John & Elizabeth Newson (Allen & Unwin 60s.) "WITH bringing up child ren you don't know if you're doing right or wrong until you have brought them up do you? You have to wait and see how they turn out and then it may be too late." Anyone who has read' "Infant Care in an Urban Community" will be looking forward to John and Elizabeth Newson's report on the second phase of the long-term project in which they are at tempting to investigate parent and child relationships in developmental sequences from babyhood to adolescence.
"Four Years Old in an Urban Community" is essentially a study of behaviour and attitudes. In the earlier publication the authors pointed out that "very few theories of child rearing have been subjected to the inconveniences of being reconciled with empirical evidence." They, themselves, are concerned with providing the evidence — not the theory.
Their aims are to achieve a detailed picture of the child at successive stages of growth, to study the mother's behaviour and attitudes and how these alter and develop in response to the child at various ages, and, finally, to investigate the patterns of relationship of cause and sequence in child rearing land personality growth.
The book contains extremely interesting reports on infant behaviour and mothers' attitudes. The authors are to be congratulated on the way they have managed to mould a rather unwieldy mass of evidence into a very readable form.
In this research they have used the same techniques as in their earlier study, i.e., taperecorded, structured interviews in which mothers were asked open-ended questions regarding certain aspects of behaviour, e.g., social learning, ritual, feeding, toilet training, attitudes to sex, to property, etc. Some of the weaknesses of the earlier research have been avoided; specially trained interviewers have replaced the Health Visitors who were originally employed for this purpose.
Only 275 of the sample of 700 four-year-old children were included in the earlier survey. It will be interesting to see how many of these will be followed through to adolescence. Loss of subjects is, of course, always one of the big hazards of longitudinal research projects, but this will inevitably affect the reliability of conclusions concerning sequences of causal relations in child rearing and personality development.
The sample is from a single urban community, Nottingham, but as one reads one feels that, in general, these families are not unlike their counterparts in other areas of the country. It would be nice to hear a bit more from the fathers. Is it just convenience that underlies the assumption that what father has to say won't alter the picture much?
With or without father's cornments, the book has many lessons to teach and is very likely to join the standard texts on the study of Child Development. As the children grow into the seven-year-old phase we join the mother quoted earlier, to "wait and see how they turn out."