|Born||Penelope Jane Balchin
19 November 1937
|Alma mater||Newnham College, Cambridge
London School of Economics
|Spouse(s)||Gerald Leach (m. 1963; d. 2004)|
Elisabeth Balchin (née Walshe)
Leach is best known for her book Your Baby and Child: From Birth to Age Five, published in 1977, which has sold over two million copies to date and won the BMA award for “best medical book for general audiences” 1998. Leach notes in the introduction to that book: "Whatever you are doing, however you are coping, if you listen to your child and to your own feelings, there will be something you can actually do to put things right or make the best of those that are wrong."
Born in Hampstead, London, she is the daughter of the novelists Nigel Balchin and Elizabeth Ayrton. She graduated, like her mother, from Newnham College, Cambridge with honours in 1959. After Cambridge, she attended the London School of Economics, where she received her PhD in psychology (1964) and lectured on child development. Her first research positions included a year in the Home Office Research Unit studying juvenile crime and six years at the Medical Research council Developmental Research Unit. Leach is a fellow of the British Psychological Society (1988) and was President of the National Childminding Association (1999-2006) and Vice -President of the HealthVisitors' Association. (1988-1999) She was a founder member of AIMH (The Association of Infant Mental Health) (1998-2002) and is now an Adviser..She also worked for the Pre-school Parents' Association and with organisations concerned with children's rights, including the NSPCC (Trustee 1996-1999)and its sister organisations in Ireland, the US and Canada and the Children's Rights development Unit (1996-2001). As a founder and parent educator of EPOCH (End Physical Punishment of Children) (1988-2004) now CAU (Children are Unbeatable) she has written pamphlets and booklets campaigning against physical punishment and in favour of positive discipline. Since 2009 she has been a Director of the Mindful Policy group which seeks to link psychological research and political policy. Recently she has contributed to work on the Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum writing the lead chapter to the book emerging from this called "too Much Too Soon?" Early Learning and the erosion of childhood, Hawthorn Press 2011. Between 1997-2005 Leach co-directed the largest ever English study of childcare: (www.familieschildrenchildcare.org)
Her current research, writing and teaching focuses on contemporary infant neuroscience which in some areas is producing evidence where formerly there were only ideas and opinions. In 2013 she published a chapter entitled "Infant Rearing in the Context of Contemporary Neuroscience" in the "Handbook of Child Wellbeing" eds. Korbin and Asher, published by Springer. She is a Senior Research Fellow of the Institute for the Study of Children, Families and Social Issues, Birkbeck, University of London and of the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust.(1997-) She is a Visiting Professor at the Faculty of Education, University of Winchester (2013- ).
Books and Media
Your Baby and Child
Leach's most popular work is Your Baby and Child, which appeared in extensively revised versions in 1988 1997, 2003 and 2010. The book is divided into five major sections, covering newborns, "settled babies," "older babies," "toddlers," and "young children." Each section includes information on expected developmental milestones and patterns in the areas of sleep, eating, "crying and comforting," speech, and physical growth. The book's central thesis is to illuminate "the successive tasks of development with which [children] are involved, the kinds of thought of which they are capable and the extremes of emotion that carry them along" because "the happier you can make your baby, the more you will enjoy being with her, and the more you enjoy her, the happier she will be."
- "Babyhood" (1974, rev. 1983) is a treatment of academic research on child development from Birth to Two years presented for a lay audience.
- "Parents' A-Z" (1983) Penguin Books, US edition The Child Care Encyclopedia'(1983) new and revised edition "Your Growing Child (1986)AA Knopf, is a reference book for parents of social emotional and physical development and problems, birth through adolescence.
- "The First Six Months: Getting Together With Your Baby" (1986)Collins, Fontana, US 1987 AA Knopf - is a photo essay on developing attachment in the first six months of life,
- "Children First: What Society Must Do --- And Is Not Doing --- For Children Today" (1994) Random House, Vintage. is a call to action spelling out policies society should adopt, in favour of children and the grown ups who care for them,polemic suggesting large-scale social initiatives to end child poverty and homelessness, and to enable parents better to balance paid work and family.
- "Child Care Today, Getting it right for everyone" (2009) AA Knopf Who is caring for today's children, what does care cost and who is paying for it? Followed five years as co-director of the Families and Children and Childcare study (familieschildrenchildcare.org )
- "The Essential First Year" (2010) Dorling Kindersley A modern guide to pregnancy and parenting in the first year, calling on new research from neuroscience.
- "Family Breakdown - helping children hang on to both their parents." (2014) *Unbound Forthcoming in US as "When Parents Part" AA Knopf Parents divorce each other but not their children. Written from children’s points of view and often in children’s own words, this is a guide to minimizing the impact of parental separation and divorce on children.
Leach has also produced several home videos sponsored by Barnadoes (Becoming a Family, Baby to Toddler, and 'Toddler to Child' 1987-1988) as well as collaborating on a play called Snap Happy that toured schools between 1986-1991 to teach conflict resolution to preschool and school-aged children.
Leach has been criticised for her view that young children require one-on-one attention, ideally provided by mothers or family members and which cannot be provided in day-care. Criticism has chiefly been directed towards Leach's purported idolising of mothers and difficulty giving fathers equal importance, and the lack of scientific evidence to support Leach's opposition to child care where the ratio of adults to infants is too low for individualised care.
However, "The Essential First Year" published in 2010 has a chapter called "Thinking about working outside your home" which says "Your baby will flourish without you while you are at work as long as he passes seamlessly from your loving care to someone elses and back again on your return...."
Upon the release of her book Family Breakdown Leach was criticised for saying that there was 'undisputed evidence' that sleepovers with a divorced father, who is not the child's primary caregiver, can cause 'emotional damage' to a baby or toddler. This view has been disputed, particularly by Professors Richard Warshak and Linda Nielsen in a report endorsed by 110 childcare specialists from around the world published in the February 2014 issue of Psychology, Public Policy and Law, a journal of the American Psychological Association.
In 1963 Leach married the science journalist Gerald A. Leach (1933–2004). Leach has a son and a daughter.
- Justine Hopkins, ‘Ayrton , Elisabeth Evelyn (1910–1991)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2011 accessed 16 Jan 2017
- Lawson, Carol (13 June 1991). "Growing Up With Help From Penelope Leach". New York Times. Retrieved 26 December 2012.
- Morrison, Blake (17 April 1994). "She Who Must Be Obeyed: Penelope Leach, scourge of the guilty middle-class parent, has produced another book. Baby and Child became the child-rearers' bible. Children First is a manifesto for children's rights". The Independent. Retrieved 26 December 2012.
- Eyer, Diane E. (1997). "There Is No Evidence That Mothers Harm Their Infants and Toddlers by Working Outside the Home". In Mary Roth Walsh. Women, Men & Gender. Yale University Press. pp. 391–398. ISBN 978-0300069389.
- Warshak, Richard A. (February 2014). "Social science and parenting plans for young children: A consensus report.". Psychology, Public Policy, and Law. 20 (1): 46–67. doi:10.1037/law0000005. Retrieved 22 July 2014.