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Penelope Leach

Areas of Interest

Health Care, Education

Honorary Award

Honorary Doctor of Philosophy, 2002


Born in London in 1937, Penelope Leach is an author and internationally renowned child psychologist. She graduated from Newnham College, Cambridge, in 1959, before going to the London School of Economics to complete her PhD in Psychology and to lecture on child development. She later worked for the Home Office Research Unit and the Medical Research Council Developmental Research Unit. Penelope has written a number of books, the most famous of which, Your Baby and Child (1977, latest edition 2003) was awarded first prize in the 'popular medicine' category by the British Medical Association. A new and updated edition will be published in March 2010. She later wrote and presented a series of 72 programmes of the same name for American television, for which in 1992 she won the CableAce award for 'Best Informational or Documentary Host'. Her other books include Babyhood (1974), Your Growing Child (1986) and Children First (1994). The Essential First Year will be published b Dorling Kindersley in 2010. She was HomeStart Trustee 2001- 2004; President of the NCMA (National Childminding Association) from 1999-2009 and a founding member of AIMH (Association for Infant Mental Health) UK from 1998. She served as a member of the British Medical Association: Committee on Child Health 1997-99; as a trustee to the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children 1996-99, on the Commission on Children and Violence 1995-96 and as a Member, Commission on Social Justice 1993-95. She was Chair of the Child Development Society: 1994-95 and Vice President of the Health Visitors Association 1988-99.

Penelope Leach was also Joint Principal Investigator: Families, Children and Child Care Study, a seven-year follow-up of 1200 children from birth into school 1997- 2005. Child Care Today, What We Know and What We Need to Know was published by Polity Press in 2009.

In 2002 Penelope Leach received the award of Honorary Doctor of Philosophy.


"The Senate of Anglia Polytechnic University has great pleasure in recommending the award of an Honorary Doctor of Philosophy degree to Dr Penelope Leach, PhD, C.Psychol, FBPsS, internationally-reputed child psychologist, US television personality and prodigious author in the field of child development, President of the National Childminding Association, former President of the Health Visitors Association and co-founder member of the charities Children are Unbeatable and the Association for Infant Mental Health - UK. She is also a co-director of the UK's largest-ever and ongoing study of childcare: the Families, Children and Childcare Study, funded by the Sainsbury Charitable Trust.

Dr Leach was a keynote speaker at the Childhood and Youth Studies Network conference held in Cambridge in 1998 and master-minded by APU, when her inspirational address was entitled "Child and Family Dynamics - An Interdisciplinary Approach." This area remains highly relevant to members of the Network within the University's Schools of Education and Community Health & Social Studies, where an Interdisciplinary framework is being developed, in part, to identify skills, values and knowledge that are common to a number of occupational areas involving children and young people, as part of further developing the University profile in this important area.

Dr Leach studied initially at Newnham College, Cambridge and continued at the University of London. Then, following ten years of academic research and the birth of her own children, she dedicated herself to bridging the gulf between professionals and parents and theory and practice. It was in this context that she wrote her first book Babyhood, designed to bring the best of academic research in child development, to the attention of parents. This was followed in 1977 by Baby and Child which was printed in 29 languages and sold over one million copies world-wide. Then, in response to parental public demand came The Parents A - Z which was a handbook on children's health, growth and happiness, from birth to adolescence and was published in 1985. However, because she believes that the first months of a mother's first baby are so crucial to family wellbeing, she produced in 1986 The First Six Months: coming to terms with your baby and in 1987, a series of three home videos spanning the first five years of a child's life became available in Britain through Virgin Video, entitled Becoming a Family, Baby to Toddler and Toddler to Child.

It was in 1989 that she produced in the USA a home video called Your Baby! This was followed the next year by The Babypack, which used a 'pop-up book' format to convey information to parents. Then in 1991, collaboration with the Pop-Up Theatre group led to the writing of a play for 3 - 7 year-olds called Snap-Happy, which successfully toured schools and nursery groups around the UK and is presently used in education programmes in connection with non-violent conflict-resolution.

Then came the launch of her US television series for parents: Your Baby and Child With Penelope Leach (available through Lifetime Cable Networks) which won a CableAce award for the "best informational or documentary host" in 1992. She has since produced yet two further books, published in the UK by Penguin and in the USA by Knopf: in 1994 came Children First: what society must do - and is not doing- for children today, which was written to speak for children and parents rather than to them and was described as "a book full of wisdom and courage" since it argued for economic and social priority to be given to parents and children, in order to create a better society for everyone. Then in 1997 came her latest book Your Baby and Child: a new version for a new generation, to respond to a new and still changing society where parents care for their children differently from the way they were reared themselves. The British Medical Association awarded this book first prize in the category of popular medicine for 1998.

Numerous other honours have been bestowed on Dr Leach and she is also an adviser, consultant, member, founder or president for a vast panoply of committees related to parents and child development in the UK and the USA. She is, indeed, a champion to both parents and children, as well as being a source of wisdom and advice par excellence to families around the world. She practises what she preaches and she preaches only what she practises she is, thus, both honest and thoroughly credible, which is a rare combination of qualities in these present times.

It is for these reasons, therefore, that I invite you, Vice-Chancellor, to confer on Dr Penelope Leach, PhD, C.Psychol, FBPsS, an Honorary Doctor of Philosophy degree of this University."