The best child psychology books

5 authors have picked their favorite books about child psychology and why they recommend each book.

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The Magic Years

By Selma H. Fraiberg,

Book cover of The Magic Years: Understanding and Handling the Problems of Early Childhood

The best book I know to understand the emotions of toddlers and how to help regulate those emotions.  Fraiberg is brilliant at taking complicated psychoanalytic and attachment knowledge and putting it into a readable and accessible form to help everyone from clinicians to parents.


Who am I?

Erica Komisar is a licensed clinical social worker, psychoanalyst, and parent guidance expert who has been in private practice in New York City for over 30 years. A graduate of Georgetown and Columbia Universities and The New York Freudian Society, Ms. Komisar is a psychological consultant bringing parenting and work/life workshops to clinics, schools, corporations, and childcare settings. She is a contributor to The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and The New York Daily News. She is a Contributing Editor to The Institute For Family Studies and appears regularly on Fox and Friends and Fox 5 News


I wrote...

Chicken Little the Sky Isn't Falling: Raising Resilient Adolescents in the New Age of Anxiety

By Erica Komisar,

Book cover of Chicken Little the Sky Isn't Falling: Raising Resilient Adolescents in the New Age of Anxiety

What is my book about?

This is a guide for parents who want to raise emotionally healthy and resilient adolescents in a time of great stress where anxiety and mental health disorders are epidemic.

In these times of great stress for our kids, resilience is not a given. The epidemic of mental health disorders in adolescents has made parenting even more challenging, but parents can still have an enormous impact on the health and well-being of their child. This book offers parents the tools they need to navigate this tumultuous time of change and create a continuous deep connection with their child. With covered topics such as anxiety, depression, ADHD, behavioral issues, and addiction, parents will learn how they can recognize mental health disorders as well as obtain compassionate and practical advice on how to address these issues if they occur

Children's Minds

By Margaret Donaldson,

Book cover of Children's Minds

I read Children’s Minds during the school summer holidays in 1979 and vividly remember sitting in the sunshine in Edinburgh’s Meadows, in floods of tears over Margaret Donaldson’s call to arms in her closing pages. Children’s Minds is a wonderful introduction to the science of child development (indeed, it profoundly affected the course of that science, particularly in terms of the development of thought and language). It’s wise, perceptive and a great read.  


Who am I?

As a primary head teacher, then literacy consultant, I wrote many books about education but at the age of 50 I changed tack. A meeting with a researcher who’d discovered an alarming decline in young children’s listening skills led to eight years’ research on the effects of modern lifestyles on children’s development. It involved many interviews with experts on diet, sleep, play, language, family life, childcare, education, screen-time, marketing influences and parenting styles – and a great deal of reading. By the time Toxic Childhood was first published in 2006 I’d realised that, in a 21st century culture, society should be paying far more attention to child development, especially in the early years. I hope to go on spreading that message until my dying breath.


I wrote...

Toxic Childhood: How The Modern World Is Damaging Our Children And What We Can Do About It

By Sue Palmer,

Book cover of Toxic Childhood: How The Modern World Is Damaging Our Children And What We Can Do About It

What is my book about?

What’s happening to childhood today? Why does one child in five now suffer from mental health problems or behavioural and learning difficulties? How has the rapid rise of digital media impacted children’s lives?

In this ground-breaking book, Sue Palmer presents up-to-date research on the toxic cocktail of factors affecting today’s children. She also provides sound advice on ‘detoxifying childhood’, including the vital importance of real food and real play for children’s development, why sleep is essential to learning – and how to ensure children get enough of it, childcare and education – what works best for different age groups, protecting children from aggressive marketing and excesses of celebrity culture, and the dangers (and benefits) of growing up in an unpredictable yet unavoidable digital age.

Touchpoints-Birth to Three

By T. Berry Brazelton, Joshua D. Sparrow,

Book cover of Touchpoints-Birth to Three

T. Berry Brazelton has been recognized as an expert on parenting and child development. I used to eagerly wait to read his newspaper column that offered concise advice on child care. In this book, Brazelton covers the milestones of typical development and he discusses common concerns of this age range. Although this book focuses on emotional and behavioral development, his background in pediatrics allows him to write about physical development as well. You will learn, in detail, what to expect of young children up to age three in this comprehensive book.

Who am I?

My passion has always been caring for and educating young children. I spent over 20 years in the classroom as a child care professional and much of that time was with toddlers. I discovered that the stereotype of the terrible twos was truly misguided. I chose books that will shed new light on why toddlers behave the way that they do. These books will show the reader what an important time this is in a child’s growth and learning. I believe that these books will help convince you that toddlers are not terrible; they are terrific!


I wrote...

365 Toddler Activities That Inspire Creativity: Games, Projects, and Pastimes That Encourage a Child's Learning and Imagination

By Joni Levine,

Book cover of 365 Toddler Activities That Inspire Creativity: Games, Projects, and Pastimes That Encourage a Child's Learning and Imagination

What is my book about?

With 365 Toddler Activities That Inspire Creativity, you can spark your child's creativity and maximize his or her potential every day of the year. Written by an experienced child-care expert, you will find hundreds of entertaining toddler activities, songs, games, and art projects that stimulate cognitive development and encourage inventiveness. You and your toddler will enjoy playtime with age-appropriate activities like: magic sun prints, treasure chest, sprout in a bag rainbow toast, fishing in the tub, all-about-me book, and so many more!

Featuring everything from outdoor activities to rainy-day fun, 365 Toddler Activities That Inspire Creativity provides hours of creative toddler play!

First Feelings

By Stanley I. Greenspan, Nancy Thorndike Greenspan,

Book cover of First Feelings: Milestones in the Emotional Development of Your Baby and Child

Psychiatrist Dr., Greenspan illuminates in careful detail for parents six emotional milestones on an infant’s journey toward becoming a more self-regulated person with an organized sense of self. He provides positive and wise supports for parents to help each child along this pathway.

Who am I?

Dr. Alice Sterling Honig, Professor Emerita of Child Development at Syracuse University, has spent over a half century working with and studying young children and creating numerous courses on how best to nurture early development. She has lectured widely in many countries and is the author of over 600 articles and chapters, and dozens of books on children and their caregivers. For nearly 40 summers she conducted an annual workshop  “Quality caregiving for infants and toddlers”. As a licensed  New York State psychologist, she has worked with families to ameliorate troubles in development and behavior. In Beijing, she was invited to give the “Dr. Alice Honig award” to a prominent Chinese pediatrician. She was awarded the Syracuse University Chancellor’s Citation for Academic Excellence.


I wrote...

Secure Relationships: Nurturing Infant/Toddler Attachment in Early Care Settings

By Alice Sterling Honig,

Book cover of Secure Relationships: Nurturing Infant/Toddler Attachment in Early Care Settings

What is my book about?

Besides promoting healthful and safe experiences, the most important skills for parents and caregivers with young children are to give love and empathy to promote each child’s development of secure attachment and the second skill is building language powers and a passionate love of learning. This book provides specific tips to l empower child care providers to nurture secure attachments that result in children’s ability to become more cooperative, friendly, and loving.

The Neurobehavioral and Social-Emotional Development of Infants and Children

By Ed Tronick,

Book cover of The Neurobehavioral and Social-Emotional Development of Infants and Children

This book helps clinicians and parents to understand the need for mothers or primary attachment figures to repair the missteps and misunderstandings from moment to moment to foster emotional security. Every mother and baby have moments of misunderstanding, the sooner the mother can repair this rift through empathy and taking responsibility for the misstep, the more seen and heard and secure the baby will feel.


Who am I?

Erica Komisar is a licensed clinical social worker, psychoanalyst, and parent guidance expert who has been in private practice in New York City for over 30 years. A graduate of Georgetown and Columbia Universities and The New York Freudian Society, Ms. Komisar is a psychological consultant bringing parenting and work/life workshops to clinics, schools, corporations, and childcare settings. She is a contributor to The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and The New York Daily News. She is a Contributing Editor to The Institute For Family Studies and appears regularly on Fox and Friends and Fox 5 News


I wrote...

Chicken Little the Sky Isn't Falling: Raising Resilient Adolescents in the New Age of Anxiety

By Erica Komisar,

Book cover of Chicken Little the Sky Isn't Falling: Raising Resilient Adolescents in the New Age of Anxiety

What is my book about?

This is a guide for parents who want to raise emotionally healthy and resilient adolescents in a time of great stress where anxiety and mental health disorders are epidemic.

In these times of great stress for our kids, resilience is not a given. The epidemic of mental health disorders in adolescents has made parenting even more challenging, but parents can still have an enormous impact on the health and well-being of their child. This book offers parents the tools they need to navigate this tumultuous time of change and create a continuous deep connection with their child. With covered topics such as anxiety, depression, ADHD, behavioral issues, and addiction, parents will learn how they can recognize mental health disorders as well as obtain compassionate and practical advice on how to address these issues if they occur

The Soul's Code

By James Hillman,

Book cover of The Soul's Code: In Search of Character and Calling

This is not a book about the midlife crisis per se, but about discovering and following your calling – often the crux of the crisis. Hillman introduces his now-famous “acorn theory of the soul” that stands opposite to the materialistic and reductive modern psychologies. He boldly claims that he is reintroducing the lost psyche back into psych-ology! He states that each one of us is called to express our unique life by becoming what we are meant to become – the acorn must one day become the oak tree. We are not “thrown naked into the world, utterly vulnerable and fundamentally alone.” We are all born with a defining image that embodies our own idea, which is as real as the transcendent ideas of Plato. This inner image/ force/ guardian – which he calls (in Socratic fashion) our “daimon” – is what guides our life. Hillman does not use…

Who am I?

I’m a writer and world-traveler. But in my previous life, I was a media executive. At thirty-five years old, at the height of my career in that world, I felt an emptiness – a lack of meaning in my life. I decided to quit and retreat to a family country house in order to figure out my next steps. I soon realized that I was experiencing a full-blown midlife crisis and started reading a lot of books in order to understand my predicament. I ended up reading for four years before finally deciding to travel around the world. The following books are the ones that helped me the most; I recommend them to others who are entering this crucial period of life.


I wrote...

Destination Earth: A New Philosophy of Travel by a World-Traveler

By Nicos Hadjicostis,

Book cover of Destination Earth: A New Philosophy of Travel by a World-Traveler

What is my book about?

The book is the product of my continuous six-and-a-half-year journey around the world, during which I visited seventy countries on six continents, treating the world as if it were a single destination. While many travelers today concern themselves with destinations solely for amusement, relaxation, and entertainment, I propose a more meaningful, rewarding, and fulfilling way of viewing travel. Enriched with travel anecdotes and some of my best travel photos, the book sheds light on the relationship between Travel and Life as a whole. Ideas and experiences are interwoven into a newly created Philosophy of Travel that is practical and easy to apply.

How to Raise Kids Who Aren't Assholes

By Melinda Wenner Moyer,

Book cover of How to Raise Kids Who Aren't Assholes: Science-Based Strategies for Better Parenting--From Tots to Teens

Everyone wants to raise honest, generous, and kind kids, right?. And the science of parenting has a lot to say about the best ways to raise children who will care about others. Moyer, as a science journalist who focuses on parenting, draws from all of that research and boils down the best evidence-based strategies for raising compassionate, and anti-biased, kids.


Who am I?

Christia Spears Brown is an author, researcher, and professor of Developmental Psychology. She is also the Director of the Center for Equality and Social Justice at the University of Kentucky. She earned her Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology at The University of Texas at Austin. Brown began her academic career on the faculty of the University of California at Los Angeles. Her research focuses on how children develop gender and ethnic stereotypes, how children understand gender and ethnic discrimination, and how discrimination and stereotypes affect children and teens’ lives. As part of her research on discrimination, she also examines the perpetration and acceptance of sexual harassment and how children understand politics, public policies, and societal inequalities.


I wrote...

Unraveling Bias: How Prejudice Has Shaped Children for Generations and Why It's Time to Break the Cycle

By Christia Spears Brown,

Book cover of Unraveling Bias: How Prejudice Has Shaped Children for Generations and Why It's Time to Break the Cycle

What is my book about?

Biases and prejudice don’t just develop as people become adults. They begin when children are young, slowly growing, and exposed to prejudice in their classrooms, after-school activities, and, yes, even in their homes, no matter how enlightened their parents may consider themselves to be. The only way to have a more just and equitable world—not to mention more broad-minded, empathetic children—is for parents to closely examine biases beginning in childhood and how they infiltrate our kids’ lives.

Unraveling Bias uncovers what scientists have learned about how children are impacted by race, gender, immigration, and LGBTQ biases, and how we adults can help protect them from those biases. Part science, part history, part current events, and part call to arms, Unraveling Bias provides readers with the answers to vital questions.

Childhood and Society

By Erik H. Erikson,

Book cover of Childhood and Society

Erikson’s classic theoretical rubric clearly describes the positive and negative poles of social development across the life span. For the earliest years, these poles are: Trust vs. Mistrust; Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt, and Initiative vs. Guilt. Freudian psychosexual theories of development and cross-cultural practices are also discussed.

Who am I?

Dr. Alice Sterling Honig, Professor Emerita of Child Development at Syracuse University, has spent over a half century working with and studying young children and creating numerous courses on how best to nurture early development. She has lectured widely in many countries and is the author of over 600 articles and chapters, and dozens of books on children and their caregivers. For nearly 40 summers she conducted an annual workshop  “Quality caregiving for infants and toddlers”. As a licensed  New York State psychologist, she has worked with families to ameliorate troubles in development and behavior. In Beijing, she was invited to give the “Dr. Alice Honig award” to a prominent Chinese pediatrician. She was awarded the Syracuse University Chancellor’s Citation for Academic Excellence.


I wrote...

Secure Relationships: Nurturing Infant/Toddler Attachment in Early Care Settings

By Alice Sterling Honig,

Book cover of Secure Relationships: Nurturing Infant/Toddler Attachment in Early Care Settings

What is my book about?

Besides promoting healthful and safe experiences, the most important skills for parents and caregivers with young children are to give love and empathy to promote each child’s development of secure attachment and the second skill is building language powers and a passionate love of learning. This book provides specific tips to l empower child care providers to nurture secure attachments that result in children’s ability to become more cooperative, friendly, and loving.

The 5 Love Languages of Children

By Gary Chapman, Ross Campbell,

Book cover of The 5 Love Languages of Children: The Secret to Loving Children Effectively

You know you love your child. But how can you make sure your child knows it? The #1 New York Times bestselling The 5 Love Languages has helped millions of couples learn the secret to building a love that lasts. Now discover how to speak your child’s love language in a way that he or she understands. Dr. Gary Chapman and Dr. Ross Campbell help you:

Discover your child’s love language
Assist your child in successful learning
Use the love languages to correct and discipline more effectively
Build a foundation of unconditional love for your child
Plus: Find dozens of tips for practical ways to speak your child’s love language.

Discover your child's primary language—then speak it—and you will be well on your way to a stronger relationship with your flourishing child.


Who am I?

Before becoming a mom, my career was as an actress in Hollywood. Once I took on the role of Mother, however, I stepped off of the stage and onto the page. Telling stories about my weary-making days raising children allowed me to encourage other moms to persevere in doing right even when their own kids do wrong. I wrote Triggers with Amber Lia in 2016 and it has been a best-selling parenting resource year after year.


I wrote...

Triggers: Exchanging Parents' Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses

By Amber Lia, Wendy Speake,

Book cover of Triggers: Exchanging Parents' Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses

What is my book about?

Do you believe your struggle with anger stems from the wrong behavior you see displayed in your children? The knee-jerk reactions and blow-ups you’re facing are often a result of a bigger set of “triggers.” Some of these are external, like a child’s disobedience, backtalk, or selective hearing, while others are internal, like an overflowing schedule, sleep deprivation, or perhaps your own painful experiences from childhood.

Triggers examines common parenting issues that cause us to explode inappropriately at our children. Moving beyond simple parenting tips on how to change your child’s behavior, we offer biblical insight and practical tools to equip and encourage you on the journey away from anger-filled reactions toward gentle, biblical responses.

The Science of Parenting

By Margot Sunderland,

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

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!


Who am I?

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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