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COLLECTION Identifier: H MS c244

T. Berry Brazelton papers


The T. Berry Brazelton papers, 1949-2007, are the product of Brazelton’s research and administrative activities as Director of the Child Development Unit at Children’s Hospital, Boston, as well as his activities as a private-practice pediatrician and author.


  • 1949-2007 (inclusive),
  • 1971-2004 (bulk).


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Access requires advance notice. Access to personal and patient information is restricted to 80 years from the date of creation. These restrictions appear in Series I, III, V, VI, and VIII. Folders containing patient information in their titles have been redacted in this finding aid to protect patient confidentiality. These folders are marked with [name redacted]. The end of the restriction period is noted with each restricted folder. Researchers may apply for access to restricted records. Consult Public Services for further information.

The collection is stored offsite. Researchers are advised to contact reference staff for more information concerning retrieval of material.

Conditions Governing Use

The Harvard Medical Library does not hold copyright on all materials in the collection. Researchers are responsible for identifying and contacting any third-party copyright holders for permission to reproduce or publish. For more information on the Center's use, publication, and reproduction policies, view our Reproductions and Use Policy.


77.65 cubic feet ((74 record cartons, 6 document boxes, 1 half document box, 1 half legal document box, and 3 flat oversized boxes).)

The T. Berry Brazelton Papers, 1949-2007, are the product of Brazelton’s research and administrative activities as Director of the Child Development Unit at Children’s Hospital, Boston, as well as his activities as a private-practice pediatrician and author. The bulk of the papers contain research and administrative records from the Child Development Unit during Brazelton’s tenure as director and include audiovisual research records, correspondence, grant records, financial records, consultation reports, and personnel records. Papers also include drafts and final copies of lectures, speeches, speaking notes, audiovisual research records, publication chapters, scholarly journal articles, and writings that address various topics in parenting and child development, including the Neonatal Behavioral Assessment Scale. Contained in the papers are research films of developmental psychologist Myrtle McGraw, (found in Seies II); the records of the Brazelton Foundation, 1996 to 2003 (Series V); correspondence written to Brazelton between 1990 and 2004 from consumers seeking parenting advice (Series IV, a portion of which includes Brazelton's handwritten responses); audiovisual records of Brazelton’s television programs, television appearances, and speeches (Series VII); and memorabilia maintained by Brazelton consisting of clippings, correspondence, event records, and photographs (Series VIII).

The T. Berry Brazelton Papers consist of eight series: Series I. Child Development Unit Records; Series II. Collected Audiovisual Research Records; Series III. Conference Materials, Lectures, Speeches, and Speaking Notes; Series IV. Writings and Publications; Series V. Brazelton Foundation Records; Series VI. Consumer Correspondence; Series VII. Collected Audiovisual Records; and Series VIII. Memorabilia. Oversized items are housed in boxes 81, 82, 83, 84, and 85.

Biographical Note

T. Berry Brazelton (1918- ), pediatrician and author, is the founder and former director of the Child Development Unit at Children’s Hospital, Boston and the developer of the Neonatal Behavioral Assessment Scale, often referred to as “the Brazelton.” His main areas of research include developmental processes in normal and at-risk infants, the assessment of neonatal behavior, medical intervention with premature and small for gestational age infants, the development of early mother-infant interaction, and cross-cultural studies of infant behavior.

Thomas Berry Brazelton was born on May 10, 1918 in Waco, Texas to Thomas Berry Brazelton and Pauline (Battle) Brazelton. He attended Princeton University, receiving an AB in 1940 and earned an MD from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1943. Brazelton completed an internship at Roosevelt Hospital in New York City and served in the United States Naval Reserve from 1944 to 1945, after which he became a resident at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston (1945 to 1957) , a pediatrics resident at Children’s Hospital (1947 to 1948), a training fellow in child psychiatry at the James Jackson Putnam Children’s Center, Roxbury, Massachusetts (1947 to 1951), and a research fellow in child psychiatry at Harvard Medical School (1948 to 1950).

In 1950, Brazelton began a private pediatrics practice in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and in 1953 became an Instructor in Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. Brazelton became interested in understanding children beyond pathology and disease and thus began doing research with parents and babies with the goal of achieving a better understanding of an infant's behavioral and developmental progression. As a result of this research, he found that babies were much more aware of their environment than was previously thought; that, for example, a four month old fetus can be startled by loud noises, an infant can distinguish between a drawing of an oval and a drawing of a human face, and a baby as young as three weeks can differentiate between the voice of its mother and the voice of its father. In order to further understand the stages of healthy child development, Brazelton undertook a fellowship at Harvard University’s Center for Cognitive Studies from 1967 to 1971, studying with psychologist Dr. Jerome S. Bruner (1915-).

In 1972, Brazelton established the Child Development Unit, a pediatric training and research center, at Children’s Hospital. The Child Development Unit offered doctors the opportunity to conduct research on child development and train for clinical work with parents and children. While at the Child Development Unit, Brazelton developed the Neonatal Behavioral Assessment Scale (NBAS) in 1973, which he later updated in 1984 and 1995. The Neonatal Behavioral Assessment Scale uses visual, auditory, and tactile stimuli to assess the physical and neurological responses of newborns, as well as their emotional well-being and individual differences. It is used worldwide in clinical and research settings as an early indicator of developmental problems, but also as a way to help parents understand and relate to their children. Brazelton served as Director of the Child Development Unit from 1972 to 1989.

At Harvard Medical School, Brazelton went on to become Associate Professor of Pediatrics (1972), Clinical Professor of Pediatrics (1986), and Professor of Pediatrics, Emeritus (1988). In 1992, the T. Berry Brazelton Chair for Pediatrics at Children’s Hospital was established, with Judith Palfrey assuming the chair in 1995 as the first incumbent. During this time, Brazelton also served as Chairman for the Section on Child Development for the American Academy of Pediatrics (1970 to 1972), President of the Society for Research and Child Development (1987 to 1989), Professor of Psychiatry and Human Development at Brown University (1988), and President of the National Center for Clinical Infant Programs (1988 to 1991).

Brazelton continued to work on children’s issues in the 1980s, accompanying United States Representative Patricia (Pat) Schroeder (Democrat, Colorado) on a nationwide tour to draw attention to family concerns, and serving as a member of the National Commission on Children (1988 to 1991). In 1989, Brazelton wrote a cover story for the New York Times Magazine entitled, “Why Is America Failing Its Children?” in which he detailed the plight of disadvantaged children. In the 1990s and 2000s, Brazelton continued to teach medical students and residents, appear on television programs, lecture widely, and, in 1993, he helped lobby for passage of the Family Leave Act.

During the course of his career, Brazelton has authored over 200 articles and chapters, as well as over thirty books, including Infants and Mothers: Individual Differences in Development (1969), Toddlers and Parents: A Declaration of Independence (1974), Doctor and Child (1976), On Becoming a Family (1981), What Every Baby Knows (1987), The Earliest Relationship (1990), Touchpoints: Your Child’s Emotional and Behavioral Development (1993), and Touchpoints: Three to Six (2001). From 1984 to 1995, Brazelton hosted the television program “What Every Baby Knows,” for which he won an Emmy in 1994, and authored monthly columns in Redbook and Family Circle, as well as a weekly newspaper column distributed by the New York Times Syndication Sales Corporation.

Brazelton married Christina Lowell in 1949. They have four children, Catherine Bowles, Pauline Battle, Christina Lowell, and Thomas Berry III.

Series and Subseries in the Collection

  1. I. Child Development Unit Records, 1971-1988, undated
  2. ___A. Research Records, 1977-1988
  3. ______1. Preterm Infants Research Records, 1977-1981
  4. _________ a. Patient Files, 1978-1981
  5. _________ b. Audiovisual Records, 1977-1981
  6. ______ 2. SGA Study Audiovisual Research Records, 1984-1988
  7. ___ B. Grants Records, 1971-1983
  8. ___ C. Correspondence, 1971-1988
  9. ___ D. Administrative Records, 1973-1985
  10. ___E. Patient and Consultation Records, 1972-1986
  11. ______ 1. Chronological Patient and Consultation Records, 1972-1985
  12. ______ 2. Alphabetical Consultation Records, 1979-1986
  13. ___F. Fellows Records, 1972-1988, undated
  14. ______ 1. Prospective Fellows Records, 1972-1983, undated
  15. ______ 2. Fellows Personnel Records, 1972-1988, undated
  16. II. Collected Audiovisual Research Records, circa 1940s, undated
  17. III. Conference Materials, Lectures, Speeches, and Speaking Notes, 1949-1992, undated
  18. ___ A. Conference Materials, Lectures, and Speeches, 1956, 1971-1992, undated
  19. ___ B. Speaking Notes, 1949-1970, undated
  20. IV. Writings and Publications, 1953-2002, undated
  21. V. Brazelton Foundation Records, 1996-2003
  22. VI. Consumer Correspondence, 1990-1994, 2000-2004
  23. VII. Collected Audiovisual Records, 1976-2003, undated
  24. VIII. Memorabilia, 1983-2007

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The T. Berry Brazelton Papers were donated to the Harvard Medical Library in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine by T. Berry Brazelton.

Related Records at Other Institutions

The Churchill J. Brazelton Correspondence, 1942-1946, can be found at the University of Texas at Austin, Harvey Ransom Center, Austin, Texas.

The Margaret S. Mahler papers, 1822-1987 (inclusive), can be found at the Yale University Library, New Haven, Conn.

T. Berry Brazelton Oral History Interview can be found at the Pediatric History Center, American Academy of Pediatrics, Elk Grove Village, Ill.

Processing Information

Processed by Bryan Sutherland, March 2009.

Processing staff in the Center for the History of Medicine analyzed, arranged, and described the records and created a finding aid to improve access to the collection. To enhance preservation, processing staff re-housed the collection and, where necessary, photocopied documents onto acid-free paper. Duplicate records and records that did not meet the collection policy of the Center for the History of Medicine were discarded. Folder titles were transcribed from originals.

Brazelton, T. Berry, 1918- . Papers, 1949-2007 (inclusive), 1971-2004 (bulk): Finding Aid.
Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine. Center for the History of Medicine.
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Center for the History of Medicine (Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine) Repository

The Center for the History of Medicine in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine is one of the world's leading resources for the study of the history of health and medicine. Our mission is to enable the history of medicine and public health to inform healthcare, the health sciences, and the societies in which they are embedded.

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