Cover image for The myth of the first three years : a new understanding of early brain development and lifelong learning
The myth of the first three years : a new understanding of early brain development and lifelong learning
Bruer, John T., 1949-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Free Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
x, 244 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
BF318 .B79 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Argues that the most important development of the brain happens up to the age of three, and shows how development actually continues through life.

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

Bruer, president of the James S. McDonnell Foundation in St. Louis, has written a provocative analysis of public response to the science of brain development. His argument is a combination of anti-big government conservatism and rigorous scientific method. Criticizing the media and misguided politicians, he argues that brain-development studies have been misrepresented in an effort to reserve public money for early childhood public services. He suggests that funds would be better spent on lifelong services, like skills classes for parents and caregivers. Along the way, he levels some well-deserved criticism at reports in the media that misinterpret and oversimplify scientific studies in order to support a popular agenda and cautions against confusing learning that must take place in a developmental sequence with other learning that can occur throughout life. Because his thesis will raise a fair amount of controversy, this book would add balance to any child development collection. Recommended for public and academic libraries.ÄMargaret Cardwell, Georgia Perimeter Coll., Clarkston (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

The myth of the title is based on three neurological strands: formation and subsequent pruning of synapses, critical periods in brain development, and complex environmental stimulation for brain development. Bruer does not believe findings support either infant determinism or the belief that the first three years are a unique and critical period in brain development. Bruer argues that there is no neurological support for the suggestion that more synapses mean a smarter child and that, on the contrary, pruning synapses provides a more efficient brain. There are critical periods--not just one period--of brain development, but in specific areas of the brain, not for the brain as a whole. These periods do not all fall neatly within the first three years of life, and they do not "slam shut" but instead end gradually over years. Bruer observes that the types of stimulation necessary for proper development during the critical periods are common to the environments of most humans, and he finds no evidence that extra stimulation beyond what the environment naturally provides adds any benefit. Given the prominence of the "myth" in the popular press and in the child-development literature, this reviewer considers this book a must for all undergraduate and graduate collections. ; California State University, Bakersfield

Table of Contents

1 Through the Prism of the First Three Years
2 The Starting Points
3 Neural Connections: Some You Use, Some You Loose
4 Be All That You Can Be: Critical Periods
5 Club Med or Solitary: The Importance of Enriched Environments
6 What's a Mother (or the Rest of Us) to Do?