The best books for neuroscientific parenting

Why am I passionate about this?

I am passionate about raising each human being for lifelong wellbeing and a full set of intelligences. High-income nations don’t do this so much anymore. I conduct empirical studies with children, parents, and other adults to examine how early experience affects capacities for getting along in life and with others. My book has won awards for its holistic view, integrating neuroscience, anthropology, and developmental science. This work led me to start the Evolved Nest website with lots of resources for parents and for all who care about human wellbeing. Humanity is facing many challenges and we need everyone’s gifts to be well grown to help us solve the problems we face.


I wrote...

Neurobiology and the Development of Human Morality: Evolution, Culture, and Wisdom

By Darcia Narváez,

Book cover of Neurobiology and the Development of Human Morality: Evolution, Culture, and Wisdom

What is my book about?

Moral development has traditionally been considered a matter of reasoning―of learning and acting in accordance with abstract rules. On this model, largely taken for granted in modern societies, acts of selfishness, aggression, and ecological mindlessness are failures of will, moral problems that can be solved by acting in accordance with a higher rationality. 

In this integrative book, Darcia Narvaez argues that morality goes “all the way down” into our neurobiological and emotional development and that a person’s moral architecture is largely established early on in life. Moral rationality and virtue emerge “bottom-up” from lived experience, so it matters what that experience is. Bringing together deep anthropological history, ethical philosophy, and contemporary neurobiological science, she demonstrates where modern industrialized societies have fallen away from the cultural practices that made us human in the first place.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Brain-Based Parenting: The Neuroscience of Caregiving for Healthy Attachment

Darcia Narváez Why did I love this book?

My students love this book. It takes the inside perspective of both the parent and the child in stressful situations and guides the reader on how to act in a way that builds connection and relationship. It is easy to read with lots of real-life examples.

By Daniel A. Hughes, Jonathan Baylin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Brain-Based Parenting as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this groundbreaking exploration of the brain mechanisms behind healthy caregiving, attachment specialist Daniel A. Hughes and veteran clinical psychologist Jonathan Baylin guide readers through the intricate web of neuronal processes, hormones and chemicals that drive-and sometimes thwart-our caregiving impulses, uncovering the mysteries of the parental brain.

The biggest challenge to parents, Hughes and Baylin explain, is learning how to regulate emotions that arise-feeling them deeply and honestly while staying grounded and aware enough to preserve the parent-child relationship. Stress, which can lead to "blocked" or dysfunctional care, can impede our brain's inherent caregiving processes and negatively impact our ability…


Book cover of The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child's Developing Mind

Darcia Narváez Why did I love this book?

You must read Dan Siegel, one of the founders of the Interpersonal Neurobiology field who writes lots of best sellers, many of them for parents. This book informs the reader on how the brain develops and functions. The book offers multiple actions in reaction to a child’s needs or actions that are brain-growth oriented and foster connection and healthy attachment.

By Daniel J. Siegel, Tina Payne Bryson,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked The Whole-Brain Child as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this pioneering, practical book for parents, neuroscientist Daniel J. Siegel and parenting expert Tina Payne Bryson explain the new science of how a child's brain is wired and how it matures. Different parts of a child's brain develop at different speeds and understanding these differences can help you turn any outburst, argument, or fear into a chance to integrate your child's brain and raise calmer, happier children.

Featuring clear explanations, age-appropriate strategies and illustrations that will help you explain these concepts to your child, The Whole-Brain Child will help your children to lead balanced, meaningful, and connected lives using…


Book cover of The Science of Parenting: How Today S Brain Research Can Help You Raise Happy, Emotionally Balanced Childr

Darcia Narváez Why did I love this book?

I keep a pile of this book on my shelf to give away to new parents and grandparents. It is fun to flip through and see what catches your eye. It has lots of photos and diagrams that make it easy to understand. It has easy-to-read descriptions of young children’s needs in light of their brain development. It is the closest to outlining the evolved nest that young children need. And it is inexpensive!

By Margot Sunderland,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Science of Parenting as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It's time to re-write the rule book on raising a child. Based on over 700 scientific studies into children's development, BMA award-winning author and child psychotherapist Dr. Margot Sunderland explains how to develop your child's potential to the full. Find out the truth about popular childcare tactics, how touch, laughter and play build emotional wellbeing for life, and the strategies for effectively dealing with temper tantrums and tears. This is the first practical parenting book to give you the facts, not the fiction on the best way to bring up your child, essential for any parent.


Book cover of The Child with Special Needs: Encouraging Intellectual and Emotional Growth

Darcia Narváez Why did I love this book?

Stanley Greenspan was a phenomenal insightful physician who started “floor time” to connect with and support children with special needs. This book lays out the general technique with case studies as example. Most importantly, the method is not rigid but guides parents on how to be uniquely sensitive to their child.

By Stanley I. Greenspan, Serena Wieder, Robin Simons

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Child with Special Needs as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Stanley Greenspan, internationally known for his work with infants, young children, and their families, and his colleague, nationally recognized child psychologist Serena Wieder, have for the first time integrated their award-winning research and clinical experience into a definitive guide to raising children with special needs. In this essential work they lay out a complete, step-by-step approach for parents, educators, and others who work with developmental problems. Covering all kinds of disabilities,including autism, PPD, language and speech problems, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, and ADD,the authors offer a new understanding of the nature of these challenges and also specific ways of helping…


Book cover of Playful Parenting: An Exciting New Approach to Raising Children That Will Help You Nurture Close Connections, Solve Behavior Problems, and Encourage Confidence

Darcia Narváez Why did I love this book?

This book is full of fun ideas for learning to play with your children at different ages, letting them lead the play. Play is a fundamental way to grow the brain at any age. So the approach is beneficial for parents as well as kids. Imagine playing as a way to solve behavior problems!

By Lawrence J. Cohen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Playful Parenting as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


Have you ever stepped back to watch what really goes on when your children play? As psychologist Lawrence J. Cohen points out, play is children’s way of exploring the world, communicating deep feelings, getting close to those they care about, working through stressful situations, and simply blowing off steam. That’s why “playful parenting” is so important and so successful in building strong, close bonds between parents and children. Through play we join our kids in their world–and help them to

• Express and understand complex emotions
• Break through shyness, anger, and fear
• Empower themselves and respect diversity
•…


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Traumatization and Its Aftermath: A Systemic Approach to Understanding and Treating Trauma Disorders

By Antonieta Contreras,

Book cover of Traumatization and Its Aftermath: A Systemic Approach to Understanding and Treating Trauma Disorders

Antonieta Contreras Author Of Traumatization and Its Aftermath: A Systemic Approach to Understanding and Treating Trauma Disorders

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

As a trauma therapist and dedicated researcher, I love uncovering valuable insights within lesser-known books. There are hidden gems, free from the pressure of commercial success, crafted by authors deeply committed to research, understanding, and the art of writing itself. Their dedication resonates with me, as I believe in the profound value of information and the power of critical thinking. Through my own book, Traumatization and Its Aftermath, I aim to emphasize that psychological concepts often lose their depth in translation and my mission is spreading awareness and fostering a deeper understanding of trauma and its intricate facets. With that idea in mind, I chose these five titles. 

Antonieta's book list on uncovering the human experience and exploring the depths of trauma

What is my book about?

A fresh take on the difference between trauma and hardship in order to help accurately spot the difference and avoid over-generalizations.

The book integrates the latest findings in brain science, child development, psycho-social context, theory, and clinical experiences to make the case that trauma is much more than a cluster of symptoms to be tamed, but instead best understood as development gone off course, away from growth and towards (only) survival.

This book prompts a profound shift in perception, inviting to view trauma as an intricate and diverse experience, a point of view that ultimately leads to sharper treatment and, hopefully, more healing. It encourages a transition from asking, "What happened to you?" to the deeper question, "What is your relationship with what happened to you?"

Traumatization and Its Aftermath: A Systemic Approach to Understanding and Treating Trauma Disorders

By Antonieta Contreras,

What is this book about?

The book is comprehensive, bold, and practical-a much-needed resource for the assessment and treatment of trauma. Instead of the traditional focus on the overall importance of healing, Traumatization and its Aftermath decodes why some people don't heal as easily as others, analyzes the various failures of diagnosis, and explains how to make therapeutic interventions truly effective.

This book offers a systemic deep dive into traumatization that clarifies myths and misinformation about the entire spectrum of trauma and provides both clinicians and non-clinicians with the right level of validation, preventive measures, conceptualization methodology, assessment tools, and healing facts that have not…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in parenting, neuroscience, and play and playing?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about parenting, neuroscience, and play and playing.

Parenting Explore 336 books about parenting
Neuroscience Explore 135 books about neuroscience
Play And Playing Explore 14 books about play and playing