Alain de Botton says “If every parent were forced to read it before raising a child, it would do greater good for the happiness & prosperity of this country than any number of government initiatives.” This is perhaps an over statement of the value of Oliver James’ book, subtitled ‘How to survive family life’. However, this book does provide an insight into some of the ways your family of origin can set up patterns that are repeated (almost unconsciously) throughout life. One thing is certain, James’ arguments for early parental influence over our future is very strong. Perhaps even Freud was right (to some extent) about the importance of toilet training? If nothing else it is an argument for self analysis & self awareness so as build on the strengths resulting from one’s early life and to avoid the weaknesses.
This book is an entertaining read that also discusses important issues for our society, for both parents engaged in child-rearing and for adults engaged in self reflection.
One criticism is that the book does not go into the physiological damage resulting from the early experiences that is looking more likely as the cause of much violent and anti-social behaviour.