Experienced psychologist’s guide prioritizes healthy development, satisfying children’s emotional hunger

Evidence-based book, workbook give parents resource for responsive care

PHOENIX After running a private practice for forty-eight years, psychologist Dr. Ronald Ruff has created an essential resource for parents who are searching for evidence-based, best practice models to help them raise happy, kind and self-aware kids. “Raising Children to Thrive: Affect Hunger & Responsive, Sensitive Parenting” (June 11, 2024) is an evidence-based guide to help parents bring up their children to thrive socially and emotionally during all phases of life.

In this world of information overload and constant distraction, parents are experiencing an urgent need for direction on how to raise their children based on the cutting-edge science of child development. New research shows that infants possess considerable social and emotional capacity to engage their parents in ways that run far deeper than ever before realized. 
Throughout Dr. Ron Ruff’s nearly fifty years of clinical practice as a psychologist, he encountered thousands of parents with only good intentions to help their children. Unfortunately, many did not know where to turn for information, support, and answers related to raising their children to become emotionally healthy adults. In “Raising Children to Thrive,” Ruff explores affect hunger, an emotional craving for maternal love, protection and care, and how this longing can be used to create a strong nurturing relationship.
Responsive, sensitive parenting is more than just a goal — it is a framework for parents who are ready to reimagine the nature of the parent-infant relationship, significantly boost their children’s social and emotional development, and raise their children to thrive.

“If you are studying or working with children or adults that have
psychological issues, get this book as quickly as possible.”

– Gale Roid, PhD, former SMU department of education chairman
and author of Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scales, 5th & 6th ed.  

“Raising Children to Thrive:
Affect Hunger and Responsive, Sensitive Parenting”

Dr. Ronald Ruff | June 11, 2024  

Hardcover | 978-1-960378-17-0 | $29.99

Paperback | 978-1-960378-18-7 | $19.99

Ebook | 978-1-960378-20-0 | $9.99

Parenting/Child Psychology

“Raising Children to Thrive:
A Workbook and Guide for 

Responsive, Sensitive Parenting” 

978-1-960378-20-0 | $29.99

In an interview, Dr. Ronald Ruff can discuss:

  • His professional and personal background with decades of experience working with diverse groups of parents and children
  • His passion for teaching parents how to use evidence-based practice models to raise emotionally and psychologically healthy children
  • The critical and evolutionary concept of “affect hunger” 
  • The revolutionary discovery that the human infant is motivated and capable at birth to engage in social interaction, emotional responsivity and communication
  • The four key pillars for effective parenting practices: relational, accepting, energetic and attuned mindsets
  • His personal experiences as a father and grandfather
  • What he learned consulting with school districts, the state government department of child and family services, and serving as expert witness in court for child and adult cases of murder and child custody
  • The research and personal experience that he has included in his groundbreaking book

More about Dr. Ronald Ruff

Ronald Ruff, Ph.D. received a B.A. in Psychology with French studies from Oberlin College, an M.S. in Counseling Psychology from George Williams College, and a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Illinois Institute of Technology. He began working with children and parents in 1969, started his private practice in 1974, and continued until 2017. 

During his 48 years of practice, he has had extensive experience in psychological treatment, assessment, and consultation in health care, education, government, judicial systems, training, teaching, and research. He has worked with all age groups and diagnostic classifications throughout his career. Ruff has conducted individual, group, family, and marital therapy and psychological evaluations within outpatient and inpatient psychiatric hospital settings. He has consulted with many school districts and the state department of welfare, and was psychologist for a juvenile court, community mental health center, and juvenile detention center. He has served as an expert witness in many cases involving the personality functioning of children, adolescents, and adults. 

Ruff was awarded a fellowship to the Harvard Medical School Department of Psychiatry and Cambridge Hospital, Center for Addictive Studies. He was clinical director of a residential treatment center for children, director of Clinical Internship Training, and an adjunct instructor who taught psychology doctoral students the core sequence of objective and personality testing, report writing and psychotherapy. Ruff has considerable experience working with culturally, racially, educationally and socioeconomically diverse populations. 

He has been married for 53 years and has three daughters and four grandchildren. Learn more about him at his website: ronaldruff.com.

An Interview with

Dr. Ronald Ruff

1. Why are you so passionate about sharing evidence-based practices and models with parents? 

I am passionate for parents to understand that responsive, sensitive parenting is the best evidence-based and practice-based model to help them raise their children to thrive. This model significantly increases your child’s potential for healthy social, emotional, and overall healthy psychological development. Responsive, sensitive parenting fosters the genuine, mutual, collaborative, nurturing relationship between parent and child, which creates the essential attachment bond.

2. What inspired you to write this book?

I was inspired by groundbreaking research in developmental psychology and affective neuroscience.  These studies focus on innate infant brain architecture and responsive, sensitive care that enables newborns to engage in social interactions shortly after birth and during the developmental years to come. I was also inspired by the concept of affect hunger.  

3. What does the term “affect hunger” mean, and how do you study that topic in the book?

Early in an infant’s life, physical contact between infant and caregiver is crucial for laying down a basic sense of security at a time when the child is not yet able to articulate and express his or her own needs. David Levy, MD, a leading child psychiatrist and advocate of the Rorschach test, wrote a classic paper in 1937 entitled, “Primary Affect Hunger.” He studied children rejected by their parents who lacked attachments and wrote: 

The term, affect hunger, is used to mean an emotional hunger for maternal love and those other feelings of protection and care implied in the mother-child relationship. The term has been utilized to indicate a state of privation due primarily to a lack of maternal affection, with a resulting need, as of food in a state of starvation…

Affect hunger is an evolutionary, innate need.  A newborn expects and requires satiation of his or her affect hunger to achieve healthy psychological development.

I study the topic of affect hunger by presenting actual case studies and discussions which reveal the negative effects on a child’s psychological development due to severe parental neglect and rejection at birth and during the formative first years of a child’s life. Additionally, I draw on evidence-based findings from my psychological evaluations which reveal highly consistent, positive correlation between affect hunger and impaired psychological functioning and disorders.

4. How did you incorporate both research and your personal experiences into your writing?

I present pioneering research findings along with my actual anecdotal or case material. I want the reader to become aware of key research regarding responsive, sensitive parenting. I also present examples revealing how my patients felt and behaved when their needs for nurturance, safety, warmth, and attachment were not met.

5. How did your extensive professional experiences influence this book?

My extensive, broad-based professional experiences in both treatment and psychological assessment give me a clear understanding of what children require for healthy development. My evidence-based practice and psychological evaluations consistently revealed high, positive correlation between poor psychological development and neglectful, rejecting parents. In short, I have a clear understanding of what children require based both on scientific research and my extensive clinical experience.

6. What makes “Raising Children to Thrive” different from other parenting books?

The book presents the new science of child development and the revolutionary discovery that the human infant is a pre-wired intersubjective self, motivated and capable at birth to engage in social interaction, emotional responsivity, and communication. It contains in-depth discussions of cutting-edge scientific discoveries that will be of interest to anyone who cares about raising happy, psychologically well-functioning, and self-fulfilled children.

7. How does neglect impact a child’s development?

Severe neglect results in impaired social, emotional, and cognitive development. Persistent parental rejection and physical and/or emotional absence is a primary factor in the occurrence of psychological disorders and poor resilience. Neglect of a child’s needs prevents satiation of his or her innate, expected hunger for affect, emotions, nurturance, safety, brain stimulation and vital maternal attachment. Severe parental neglect also results in a child’s inability to gain the necessary psychological resources—including a conscience, empathy, a sense of play, verbal stimulation, social skills, and reading.

8. What do you hope to accomplish with this book and workbook?

I want parents to understand the core features of responsive, sensitive parenting and become confident in applying them in their daily interactions with the child in their life. I want to take the science out of baby labs and journals and bring it into the hearts and minds of parents. Using groundbreaking scientific findings and best practice models, I hope that parents will become experts in truly knowing the unique nature of their child’s mind. In so doing, they have a significantly higher potential to raise socially, emotionally, and overall psychologically happy children. We are living in the age of intersubjectivity. We can understand the minds of others. It is only within genuine, mutual, I-Thou relationships that we can help our children, and likewise ourselves, to grow and thrive as happy, whole, self-fulfilled human beings.

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