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Born for Love: Why Empathy Is Essential--and Endangered and over one million other books are available for Amazon Kindle. Learn more
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Born For Love: Why Empathy Is Essential--and Endangered Paperback – Mar 18 2011

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Born For Love: Why Empathy Is Essential--and Endangered + The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog: And Other Stories from a Child Psychiatrist's Notebook - What Traumatized Children Can Teach Us About Loss, Love, and Healing + The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child's Developing Mind
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Avon; Reprint edition (March 18 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061656798
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061656798
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 2.2 x 20.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 181 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #9,961 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


“Empathy, and the ties that bind people into relationships, are key elements of happiness. Born for Love is truly fascinating.” (Gretchen Rubin, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Happiness Project)

“Once in awhile a book changes the way I experience the world. This time it’s Born For Love, by Bruce D. Perry and Maia Szalavitz. Their book explores how children learn to love-or not. No work of fiction is as compelling.” (Denver Post)

“An accessible and important work of popular science.” (

“Strikingly original and thought-provoking, Born for Love explores the crucially important role empathy plays in all of our lives. It should be required reading for every parent, partner, and friend.” (Annie Murphy Paul, author of Origins: How the Nine Months Before Birth Shape the Rest of Our Lives)

From the Back Cover

Uncover the startling importance of empathy

From birth, when babies' fingers instinctively cling to those of adults, their bodies and brains seek an intimate connection—a bond made possible by empathy, the remarkable ability to love and to share the feelings of others.

In this unforgettable book, award-winning science journalist Maia Szalavitz and renowned child-psychiatrist Bruce D. Perry explain how empathy develops, why it is essential both to human happiness and for a functional society, and how it is threatened in the modern world.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book is a little more technical than "The Boy Who Was Raised by a Dog", however, it is fascinating to read about how the lack of attachment as a child can affect brain development. Still trying to get through the end of this book as it is rather technical but interesting nonetheless!
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By D Hunter on Dec 30 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book was recommended by someone that I trust and I have to admit, it is a very interesting read. It reads, at times, like a textbook but overall the book is very insightful. Would highly recommend it.
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By angela wood on Sept. 16 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
One of the best book that addresses today's issues and their effects on our emotional health.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 73 reviews
159 of 170 people found the following review helpful
Elegantly explaining that it's more than just genes..... April 20 2010
By J. Weiland - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
So much is right about the content and message of this book that I will leave it up to the reader to obtain a copy and find out for themselves.

"Born for Love" follows on the heals of the successful "The Boy who was Raised as a Dog" also penned by the Perry/Szalavitz duo. The latest book draws out several concepts that desperately need to be understood and expressed by all current and future caregivers of children. First is the fact that much of the "learning" that occurs between birth and three years of age often will not be consciously remembered, but will nevertheless influence, often strongly, one's behavior beyond childhood. This can flare up especially acutely when the adult with an abusive past finds themselves struggling to care for a child themselves. The second is the general misconception that "intelligence" allows one to overcome the psychological scars of abuse. A case in point is presented in the book of Ryan, a boy who used his intelligence to excel in his studies and in his social sphere without revealing or being able to repair his internal, disconnected emotional world, until it erupted in a cold, violent crime. For most survivors of abuse emerging toward healthier lives, recovery relies more on supportive relationships than intelligence. Third is the concept of early relationships as a "template" for future relationships. Indeed, just as half of each parent's DNA served as a template (the actual word use to describe DNA copying) for DNA found in their child, would it not be parsimonious for parental behavior to provide a template upon which the child builds his/her own emotional and behavioral repertoire? And just as mutation in DNA can lead either to new deleterious or beneficial traits, so too can the novel experience during childhood become epigenetically and neuronally "fixed" (though apparently reversibly) in ways leading to great resilience, at one extreme, due to supportive caregiving or marked instability, at the opposite end of the spectrum, due to early maltreatment. The authors further correctly emphasize the importance of kinship in child rearing with their reminder that to "be of a kind" and to "be kind" are both derived from "kin". This latter point is of concern with the increasing time spent by children in care situations not involving those of their immediate or extended family.

Given the excellent information and references presented in "Born to Love", the authors nevertheless neglect some crucial issues pertaining to the target of human empathy. As a serious foray into the developmental roots of this ability, I found the lens focused too narrowly on human-to-human interdependence. Many writing from within the 'ecopsychology' tradition are correct with their insistence that relationships beginning in the womb subsequently expand to include human caretakers and the immediate natural world around them, and finally develop into rich relationships with human and non-human alike. Thus, the targets of empathy must be encouraged, as early as possible, to include the non-human as well as the human. Children's fascination with animals is a clue to this yearning. As the authors indicate, our evolutionary history was characterized by small tribal groups, a mixture of ages involved in care taking (although with some adults always present), and a large amount of time spent immersed in the natural world even during interactions with other humans. Exclusively human-focused attempts to engender empathy will likely dead-end as it perpetuates the perceived divide between things that we must care for and nurture and those that we can wantonly consume or discard. "Born for Love" touches briefly on two cultural/social paradigms to exemplify greater relationship connections than those found in an 'average' Western culture--that of Iceland and of first nation indigenous tribes near Winnipeg, Canada. Because the historical tradition of many indigenous peoples fosters empathy not only with humanity, but with the "other" (the non-human) as well, a more fundamental, less schizophrenic interdependence is cultivated and often realized, even as it conflicts with agro-urban societies. So the latter culture gets my vote as the one more important to emulate.

If the reader finds this thread to be of interest, couple the reading of "Born for Love" with that of Jean Liedloff's "The Continuum Concept: In Search of Happiness Lost". And for the adventurous, nothing cuts to the core of our societal problems dating back to prehistory like Paul Shepard's "Nature and Madness" and many of the concepts formulated by Daniel Quinn. One will find abundant ideas and guidelines for a movement towards greater sanity within these writings.
67 of 69 people found the following review helpful
Born for Love and Hope Sept. 28 2010
By denmarsark - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"We are all born for love. It is the principle of existence, and its only end," quoted from Disraeli,is how Perry and Szalavitz start an exploration of how children learn to love-or not. Perry is an international expert on how childhood trauma, abuse or neglect leaves developmental gaps in a young girl or boy's brain. More importantly, he tells what we can do about it. Szalavitz is an award-winning science journalist who creates a coherent narrative of the ten children and their families who are the characters of this book. No work of fiction is as compelling as entering the lives of these young children and their journey to young adulthood.

Humans need the capacity for empathy-without it, the ability to love is lost. These children are hungry, even desperate for love, and hungry for learning, but the deficits in brain development due to the trauma, drama and chaos of the first four years of life, during which their brains were literally organizing, resonates down their early years. Perry makes the case that all the "Golden Rules" in major religions show how "morality depends on our ability to see the world from other points of view. And this starts with mirror neurons." Right there is what makes this book unique; what we experience as religious, moral and ethical choices in life all begin with what our brains are capable of. "Empathy is the basis of compassionate action...the foundation of trust, which is necessary for the successful functioning of everything from relations to families to governments and, yes, to economies."

What I love about Perry's approach, though, is the lack of moralizing. Here's what happened to this kid's brain and when; here's the consequences of that, now and in the future. Let's find out where the gaps are in brain development, fill in the gaps, and help the kid make better choices. It's a simple process of science-based assessment and treatment, with positive outcomes. It's not easy, but doable. Children, families, schools, neighborhoods, county/state child welfare systems, all benefit when the kid moves from raging and hurting to soothing and healing.

Perry doesn't offer psycho-pablum, such as "all kids are resilient, they'll get over it." When early trauma is intermittent and moderate, a child can be resilient; but when the trauma is sustained and severe, the child is vulnerable, not resilient, and needs help delivered in a way that maximizes brain change and healing. These children need connection, need claiming and consistency, not shuttling them from one foster family or treatment center to another.

Perry prescribes six "R's" in his approach: playful engagement needs to be rhythmic (to affect deep down in the brainstem), repetitive (creating patterns), relational (safe, stable), relevant (geared to child's developmental stage, not chronological age), rewarding (pleasurable) and respectful (of the child, family and culture). Without intervention, they rage, act out, hurt themselves, their families, other children, end up in detention, homeless, insane or in prison. As a society, we need to make good choices about how we spend our charitable and tax dollars on child trauma and neglect; otherwise these children make brain-traumatized choices that cost them and us much pain, injury, money and lives. No empathy breeds impaired, broken and lost relationships; loving, thoughtful care creates well brains, good choices and productive lives.
36 of 36 people found the following review helpful
It's not a must's a please read! June 7 2010
By Toni Detherage - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As both a parent and a professional who works with families, I can't say how appreciative I am to these authors for writing a book that takes the very clinical and technical issues of trauma and human development and somehow turns healing processes into something the rest of us can really understand how to do. They have a remarkable way of linking the human story to the greater need to understand the long term impacts of complex trauma and the developmental barriers associated with trauma and neglect. If a book could shine, this one would.
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Outstanding Book - rich with wisdom and compassion Nov. 28 2011
By Simply Jeff - Published on
Format: Paperback
This is one of the best books I've read in several months--maybe several years. It covers a lot of ground. Based in Perry's knowledge of neuro-development and healthy human minds, it applies these insights to economic inequality, social trust, addictions, mental healthy and a whole bunch of other areas. Perry concludes that we live in a society that is fundamentally ignorant of what healthy brain development looks like.

Take heart disease. Whereas most doctors would prescribe exercise, maybe some red wine, or something else, Perry would prescribe some new friendships and more nourishing face-to-face social interaction. It's called "relational health".

Perry is particularly critical of child welfare institutions, criminal "justice" institutions, and other barbaric social rituals that Americans regularly engage in.
What I found most surprising--and interesting--was his criticism of many psychotherapists, especially those who unfailingly encourage their clients to "love themselves first" even if this means quickly leaving relationships and spending more time alone. Perry thinks that relationships are crucial to human health and the important thing is to learn how to communicate and empathize, not simply to leave your partner at the first sign of trouble. A rare voice indeed.

I unconditionally recommend this book to anyone who wants to live a better life or who cares about the world.
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Highly recommend this book - developing empathy is essential! Sept. 2 2010
By Kathy Slattengren - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in deepening their understanding of the development empathy in children. Perry and Szalavitz weave case studies and research into building an explanation for how empathy develops or fails to develop. They show that although children are born with the capacity to have empathy, it only develops under certain conditions. As a parent educator, I can use these stories to explain the critical elements parents contribute in developing their children's empathy.

Empathy is at the heart of caring communities. Without empathy, behaviors like bullying will continue to plague our children. This book provides the light to see how to build a better world starting with our children.