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Education Reporter

Bringing Up Girls, Dr. James Dobson, Tyndale House Publishers 2010, 285 pages, $25.99.

This may be the most challenging time to raise girls in modern history, according to psychologist James Dobson, but involved and intentional parents can still raise confident girls with commendable character. Almost a decade after the release of Bringing Up Boys, this companion volume offers "practical advice and encouragement for those shaping the next generation of women."

For those who haven't already rejected the notion that boys and girls aren't all that different, Dobson uses the latest research to make the case that physiological hardwiring makes females wonderfully distinct from males. His lay-friendly descriptions of hormonal and neurological differences help explain why girls behave as they do. The doctor also tells how parents can better relate to daughters in varying female developmental stages.

The complicated and crucial relationship between a girl and her mother is examined from several angles, but Dobson makes a special effort to communicate just how desperately girls need the attention and affection of their fathers. Men intuitively understand that they have something unique to offer their sons, but often underestimate their contributions to their daughters' wellbeing.

Girls have an intense desire to connect with the "first man" in their lives, Dobson writes, and research reveals that a father's presence and interactions with his daughter (or lack thereof) impact everything from a girl's self-concept to when her menstrual cycle and sexual activity begin. Fathers will derive special insight about their vital roles from transcripts of young women talking about their dads.

There is plenty of bad news about girls, and the statistics on early promiscuity and destructive behaviors such as eating disorders and self-cutting are sobering. The good news is that studies also show that parents who cultivate strong relationships with their daughters and supervise them closely can help prevent them from engaging in dangerous and immoral activities. Dr. Dobson gives parents a solid prescription for doing just that, writing in a conversational tone that weaves empirical research with letters from little girls, his own experiences as a father, interviews, wisdom from other authors, and question and answer segments.

Additional topics include bullies and best friends, protecting kids from invasive technology, and how our cultural obsession with beauty impacts girls. Also noteworthy is one woman's account of how her parents "charmed" her into realizing that her heart and body were too valuable to give away casually.

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