Raising Parents: Attachment, Parenting and Child Safety

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RAISING PARENTS: ATTACHMENT, PARENTING AND CHILD SAFETY McKinsey Crittenden, P. (2008). Cullompton/ Portland: Willan, xv + 381 pp., pbk, ISBN 978-1-84392-498-2, £28.45

This book, the author's first, is about parents who may endanger their children or whose children may endanger themselves or others. In a moving preface, the author emphasises her 40 years' experience both of working with parents and of being a parent herself. Her concern is to assist professionals who work with children or adults who were harmed as children. This is relevant in the community and criminal justice field because disproportionate numbers of juvenile and adult offenders are known to be products of the care system and/or to have experienced abuse and/or traumatic loss.

The author's central thesis is that the parents of children displaying problematic behaviours should not be simply dismissed as 'inadequate' but helped to become adequate, and that this will serve their children best. Parenting is probably the most important task any human being can undertake, and yet the one for which there is the least training - we tend to assume that knowledge about how to parent is innate. But this is a shaky assumption in a situation where no good model of parenting has ever been witnessed by the new parent, especially if the model has been one of abuse or abandonment. As the author rightly asks, 'On which day does a victim of repeated abuse - who should be protected - become transformed into a perpetrator who should be punished?' (p. 10). The implication is that there are points in between the extremes of this dichotomy at which professionals, instead of perpetuating an inflexible paradigm, can intervene to stop such a progression.

The book is organised around the dynamic -maturational model (DMM) of attachment and adaptation - that is to say that it seeks to understand and explain parental behaviour through paying attention to their developmental experiences and the ways in which they process information. …