Book Review: Born for Love


The goal of Dr. Bruce Perry and Maia Szalavitz’s book, Born for Love: Why Empathy Is Essential and Endangered is to demonstrate how our modern lifestyle is limiting our ability to feel empathy and build connections with others. In the process of making the argument, they thoroughly explain neurological development from pregnancy to adulthood. Although adoption and parenting an adopted child are not the focus, this book is a must read for anyone who knows, loves, parents or teaches a child.

As a mental health professional, I work with many people who feel isolated and lonely. Loneliness doesn’t cause depression, but it certainly doesn’t help! Dr. Perry uses the latest in neurological research to help us understand the fundamental importance of relationships to human development, specifically how the brain develops. The book explains how our early relationships shape our ability to handle stress, manage our emotions, and build solid relationships with others later in life. This dynamic is critical for adopting parents to understand so they can better re-parent their child.

Each chapter in the book focuses on a different case example that illustrates the theme of that chapter. “In Your Face” explores how too much parental hovering leads to a child that cannot manage stress. “Missing People” directly explores the developmental impact of orphanages. The liberal use of true stories helps make the book an enjoyable read. The case study comes from Dr. Perry’s own practice, and he relates the narrative in a friendly, truthful and engaging way.

Explaining neurological concepts can create a dizzying array of complicated vocabulary words, like hippocampus, neurotransmitter, serotonin, re-uptake inhibitor, etc. Born for Love is written in a way that manages to make these unfamiliar terms and complex ideas fairly easy to understand. The authors do a good job of restating things in a variety of ways without making things seem dull or repetitive. The way the book is organized helps link concepts together from chapter to chapter. I love finding books that cover so much information in a way that we can all understand!

I am particularly excited about the information in Born for Love. By explaining the neurochemistry behind human development and attachment, we learn a great deal about how traumatic life experiences impact a child. For adopting parents, this information is priceless. Each vulnerable child’s story is unique, and Born for Love provides so much information that would help parents understand their particular child.

In addition to describing the many ways that disrupted relationships harms human development, two chapters in the book focus on adoption-related case studies. One example comes from the foster care system, and one comes from international adoption. These chapters use case examples to illustrate the findings of neurological research.

Parenting an adopted child can be a challenging task. Reading Born for Love will give you the latest research into why this is the case. Sometimes it’s easier for us to be patient if we understand the mechanics of the brain. By knowing more about the possible limitations of our child’s early life experiences and the impact on their mind, it can be easier to reduce our frustration, gain perspective, and negotiate challenging moments.

For more information about MLJ Adoptions’ international adoption programs, please click here.

MLJ Adoptions is a Non-Profit, Hague-Accredited adoption service provider located in Indianapolis, Indiana, working in Africa, Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Pacific Isles. We are passionate about serving children in need.