Interview with our oldest living child psychotherapist: Isca Wittenberg
Penelope Leach, CBE
Penelope Leach Your Baby and Child Author, Parenting Guide and Baby Mental Health Expert in conversation with leaders in the field of infant mental health: Graham Music, Robin Balbernie, Jacqueline Barnes, Dilys Daws and Neil Leitch
She is one of the most respected and perhaps best loved baby researchers and her depth of knowledge of baby mental Infant mental health and child development has made Penelope Leach a much sought after parenting guide for over 50 years.
In this interview, Penelope shares her vast knowledge of a child’s development stages and what she sees are the key issues affecting baby mental health and family wellbeing. It is clear why she has been such a powerful influence, such as shaping public opinion by sharing her childcare research. She has also deeply influenced child professional organisations, many of which she has led and join her in conversation in this interview.
Her contribution to the field of child development, Infant mental health and her popular parenting books and TV series which chart a child’s development stages, have won awards all over the world. We asked Penelope about ‘Your Baby & Child’ which is packed with the latest in child development research and has sold over 3 million copies (the latest edition has just been fully revised). You can find it on Amazon or bookshop.org.
In this interview hear her discuss:
- Her groundbreaking research on childcare with Jacqueline Barnes
- The importance of understanding a child’s development stages
- The ‘Baby Blindspot’ (the failure of governments to prioritise the importance of babies)
- Parenting leave
- Conflicts in parenting
- Child discipline (she was one of the earlier campaigners against physical punishment)
- Divorce – the effects on children
- Fathers – what is the role of fathers and why they are so important for baby mental health
- What in her 50 years of research has she found most helps baby mental health and the wellbeing of families?
Leading practitioners and colleagues joined us to honour Penelope Leach’s huge contribution to the field of infant mental health:
Dilys Daws (you can see her legacy interview with us here), Sebastian Kraemer and Robin Balbernie talked about their work with Penelope advancing our understanding of infant mental health in organisations such as the Association of Infant Mental Health.
Professor Jacqueline Barnes discussed with Penelope their research on child development, in particular the issue of childcare, one of the largest projects in the world ever undertaken.
Our recent legacy interviewee Dr Graham Music talked about the contribution Penelope has made to parents and their babies around the world.
Neil Leitch, CEO of the Early Years Alliance & Theresa Johnson from Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years talked about the powerful influence Penelope has had on promoting the importance of Early Years professionals such as Child Minders and Nursery Workers.
We discussed the ‘Baby Blindspot’ – politicians and policymakers ignoring the needs of babies – an issue close to Penelope’s heart. You can read her Thought Piece for us on this here.
More about Penelope Leach:
Penelope was President of the Health Visitors Association now the Institute of Health Visiiting, actively involved in the training of early years workers as President of National Childminders Association (now Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years), President of Preschool Playgroups Association (now Early Years Alliance), was a Kidscape champion and Founder of Association of Infant Mental Health. She was one of the early campaigners to stop the physical punishment of children and her books and television series have won awards all over the world.
Dr Penelope Leach’s huge contribution to the field of infant and child mental health was recognised in the 2022 Queen’s birthday honours list when she was made a CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire), one of the highest awards that can be made for public service.
More information on Penelope Leach here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Penelope_Leach
You can hear Penelope Leach on BBC Radio 4, Desert Island Discs here
You can see portraits of Penelope Leach in the National Gallery archive here
For more interviews from leading practitioners in child mental health visit our interviews page.
If you would like to help transcribe this interview, please contact us using the feedback form at the bottom of this page.
Readings to follow.