T. Berry Brazelton is one of the most prominent pediatricians of the 20th century. His books have influenced the beliefs and practices of many parents and his evaluation tool Neonatal Behavioral Assessment Scale - known as "the Brazelton" - is used throughout the world.
Brazelton has been compared to American pediatrician Benjamin Spock, author of the best-selling book Baby and Child Care (1946). In his roles as a researcher, clinician and advocate for parents, Brazelton has been one of the formative influences on pediatrics in the United States for over 50 years. Many households are familiar with Brazelton's face and name as host of the program What Every Baby Knows. He is also a syndicated newspaper columnist to the New York Times and a contributing editor to Family Circle magazines.
Brezelton was born in Waco, Texas, on May 10, 1918, and went on to study at Princeton, before graduating in 1943 from the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City. In 1945, he moved to Boston to serve his medical residency at Massachusetts General Hospital, before undertaking pediatric training at the city's flagship Children's Hospital.
Following his interest in child development, Brazelton underwent five additional years of training in child psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital and the James Jackson Putnam Children's Center. In 1972, Brazelton established the Child Development Unit, a pediatric training and research center, at the Children's Hospital in Boston, integrating his dual interests in primary care pediatrics and child psychiatry.
Brazelton is Clinical Professor of Pediatrics Emeritus at Harvard Medical School and Professor of Psychiatry and Human Development at Brown University. He was president of the Society for Research in Child Development (1987-1989) and the National Center for Clinical Infant Programs (1988-1991). He is founder and co-director of the Touchpoints Center, at the Children's Hospital in Boston, as well as the Brazelton Institute. Touchpoints is a preventative outreach program that trains professionals to help families of infants and toddlers. In 1989, Congress appointed Brazelton to the National Commission on Children, where he was a passionate advocate for underprivileged families.
Brazelton has published more than 200 scientific papers and book chapters, otherwise known as symposium volumes. In his work he focuses on the individual differences among newborns and the contribution of the neonate to the parent-infant dyad. Brazelton other areas of research include the development of attachment between parent and infant over the first four months, the importance of early intervention to at-risk infants and their parents and the opportunities presented in early infancy for strengthening families. He is also an expert in cross-cultural studies of infant behavior and early parenting practices.
Brazelton's foremost achievement in pediatrics is the Neonatal Behavioral Assessment Scale (NBAS), published in 1973 and revised twice in the 1980s. This evaluation tool is used to assess the physical and neurological responses of newborns, as well as their emotional well being and individual differences. Unlike the classical neurological scales, designed to identify abnormalities in newborn functioning, NBAS examines the competences of the newborn infant and at the same time identifies areas of concern.
NBAS has been used in hundreds of research studies to assess the effects of pre-natal and perinatal influences on newborn behavior, including prematurity, low birth weight and pre-natal substance abuse. In recent years, NBAS has been increasingly used as a method of helping parents understand and relate to their infants. New research focuses on NBAS as a tool that can be used by medical staff in the early discharge of newborns from hospital.
Brazelton has published many books for parents in addition to his other writings, including Infants and Mothers: Differences in Development (1983), the Touchpoints (1992) and the Brazelton Way series of books, which covers childcare topics such as discipline, sleep and toilet training. His work also includes the development of a fourth edition of the Neonatal Behavioral Assessment Scale with his colleague J. Kevin Nugent. In his writings for parents, Brazelton focuses on the nature of individual differences in behavior.
Throughout his work, Brazelton stresses the importance of creating strong family support and encouraging the individuality of every child. He advocates the belief that an infant's behavior provides clues for parents that can strengthen the bond between child and parent. This approach of viewing families as cohesive units and promoting positive self-images for children at all development stages accounts for his success as a pediatrician.