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T. Berry Brazelton

Well-known pediatrician, writer, researcher, and educator.

Like Dr. Benjamin Spock (1903-) before him, T. Berry Brazelton has earned a nationwide reputation as a trusted expert on child care, reaching a mass audience through books, personal appearances, newspaper columns, videos, and a cable-TV program. His research on infant behavior and development led him to formulate the Neonatal Behavioral Assessment Scale (NBAS), a series of clinical tests used in hospitals worldwide. Brazelton's efforts on behalf of children have also been extended to the public policy arena through congressional appearances and lobbying efforts.

Dr. T. Berry Brazelton (Photo by Elise Amendola. AP/Wide World Photos. Reproduced with permission.)

Thomas Berry Brazelton II was born in Waco, Texas, in 1918. By the sixth grade he had decided on a career in pediatrics. He earned his undergraduate degree from Princeton in 1940 and his M.D. from Columbia in 1943. He remained there another year as an intern and then served for a year in the Naval Reserves. His residency was served at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, where he completed an additional residency in child psychiatry at the James Jackson Putnam Children's Center in Roxbury. Brazelton opened his own private practice in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1950 and became an instructor at Harvard Medical School the following year. He also began research on newborns, toddlers, and parents with the goal of helping parents better understand and interact with their children. Among other areas, he has focused on individual differences among newborns; parent-infant attachment during the first four months of life; and the effects of early intervention on at-risk infants. Based on his research, Brazelton developed the NBAS, first published in 1973. The test, popularly called "the Brazelton," uses visual, auditory, and tactile stimuli to assess how newborns respond to their environment. It is widely used both clinically and as a research tool.

Brazelton's interest in shifting the focus of pediatric study from disease to infant development led him to found the Child Development Unit at Children's Hospital Medical Center in Boston in 1972, together with Edward Tronick. The unit provides medical students and other professionals the opportunity to research early child development and also prepare for clinical work with parents and children. Brazelton's first book, Infants and Mothers (1969), has sold more than a million copies and has been translated into 18 languages. It has been followed by a dozen more, including Toddlers and Parents (1974), On Becoming a Family (1981), and Working and Caring (1984), as well as a series of videotapes on child development. Brazelton also writes a syndicated newspaper advice column and since 1984 has had his own program, What Every Baby Knows, on cable television.

Rosalie Wieder

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Psychology EncyclopediaFamous Psychologists & Scientists