Dr Ed Tronick and Dr Claudia M. Gold – The Power of Discord

Jun 30, 2020 | Mental Health, Relationships


Ed Tronick PhD

Ed Tronick is a developmental neuroscientist and clinical psychologist. He is University Distinguished Professor of Developmental Brain Science at the University of Massachusetts Boston and Research Associate in the Department of Newborn, Medicine Harvard Medical School. Dr, Tronick is internationally recognized for his research on infant neurobehaviour and infant emotions and social interactions.


He formulated that Still-Face paradigm, and the Mutual Regulation Model.  His research uncovered the significance of interactive discord and the positive effects of reparation of interactive mismatches for developing resilience, sense of self and hope. His research and writing is deeply informed by his studies of children and parents in communities in Kenya, Zambia, Peru, India, Congo, Grenada, Guatemala, and diverse communities in the Europe and the US.


His current research focuses on the behaviour and physiology of infants’ and mothers’ coping with stress, infant memory for stress and its relation to trauma, epigenetic processes affecting infants’ and parents’ behaviour, and the factors leading to relapse in new mothers with opioid use disorder.  Dr. Tronick is founder and chief faculty of the Infant-Parent Mental Health Fellowship Certificate Program, a multidisciplinary international training program for providers working to enhance the development of children and their families.


His research is funded by National Institutes of Child Health and Development, the National Institute of Drug Abuse, the National Science Foundation, the Bial and MacArthur Foundations.  He has published more than 300 scientific articles and 5 books, several hundred photographs and has appeared on national and international radio and television programs.


Dr. Tronick is the recipient of many awards including the Lifetime Achievement Award from Zero to Three, and The Distinguished Scientific Contribution to Child Development from the Society for Research in Child Development.  He is a fellow in both the American Psychological Association and the American Psychological Science Association and serves as a reviewer for Medical Research Councils, London, U.K., Canadian Maternal Science Foundation, International Conference on Infant Studies, Behavioural Sciences Program, National Science Foundation, and the National Institutes of Child Development and of Drug Abuse.  He has lectured internationally, including talks in London, Rome, Bangkok, Melbourne, Lisbon, Pretoria, Buenos Aires and multiple cities the USA.


He is married to Marilyn Davillier, a clinical therapist and writer, has two adult children and four grandchildren.


Claudia M.Gold MD

Claudia practiced general and behavioural paediatrics for over 25 years and now specializes in early childhood mental health. She is the director of The Hello It’s Me Project, a rural community based-program designed to promote healthy relationships between infants and their caregivers.


Claudia works as a clinician with FIRST Steps Together, a federally funded program for pregnant and parenting women with opioid use disorders, and as an infant-parent mental health consultant at Volunteers in Medicine, Berkshires.


Her work includes having written numerous articles and presenting regularly for audiences of both parents and professionals around the world.


Claudia has written four books: The Power of Discord with co-author Ed Tronick, forthcoming June 2020, The Developmental Science of Early Childhood(2017), The Silenced Child(2016), and Keeping Your Child in Mind(2011).


She also sits on the faculty of the Infant-Parent Mental Health Fellowship Program at the University of Massachusetts Boston, the Brazelton Institute at Boston Children’s Hospital , and the Berkshire Psychoanalytic Institute.



Ed, Claudia and I discussed the following in this episode:


  • The inspiration behind the book and how Ed was looking into what made a good relationship, his lifelong research with parents and children.

  • How he would video tape face to face interactions between mothers and children, fathers and children, strangers and children to see how they interacted.

  • The dance of interaction was well choreographed but there was a period of ‘mismatching’ in all interactions, and how this was overcome in a process as which Ed describes as ‘repair’.

  • This was how the ‘mismatch and repair’ model began to develop.

  • Gloria’s passion was how to help people develop in a healthy way but from the beginning, her standard training was based around “what is it, and how do we fix it”?

  • Gloria was seeing a large amount of developmental disorders and discovered at that time the work of Donald Winnicott, Peter Fonagy and Ed’s work which started a new way of how she approached these disorders.

  • The ‘Still Face Experiment’, and the general idea that previously infants weren’t that sociable, and they couldn’t participate. Ed’s idea to stop the mother from interacting with the infant and his hypothesis about what would happen.

  • From the very first experiment he saw the still face reaction which was how the child responded to the mother not interacting.

  • The reunion episode of this interaction as the ‘repair’ side of mismatch and repair takes place.

  • The still face became a model for mismatch and repair.

  • Claudia’s experience of applying the mismatch and repair model to families that she was seeing in a lot of discord.

  • The challenge of parenting an Autistic child and how this is a prime example of a mismatch and repair on a continuous basis.

  • Ed’s sees that the output signals of children on the spectrum and the timing of their signals can sometimes be off. The reading of the input signals coming into them are much more difficult. It becomes more difficult to establish that interaction.

  • Jerome Bruner – Cognitive Psychologist – human beings derive meaning out of doing things in the world and internal processes. Children’s meaning comes out of bodily processes but develop as a child gets older. Ed sees those earlier bodily processes still operating within us.

  • Ed sees this in polarization (happening now) where our internal emotional processes revert to bodily in the same way as a child, its rigid and inflexible and makes change difficult. We are not open and flexible.

  • Claudia describes how physically doing something different may be necessary i.e. the black protester carrying the white protester to safety during riots to diffuse this emotional response.

  • Fearfulness and uncertainty is a constant grind on one’s ability to feel good about oneself.

  • The magnifying effect of lockdown on negatives and positives in relationships, how the dance of relationships has been impacted and why people are finding themselves out of step with one another.

  • Gloria has noticed how Dads are often left out and why their perspective is really important in how the families are operating, lockdown highlights the flaws in the system where Dads can often be marginalised which needs to change.

  • The challenge of reflection that has been brought about by lockdown in the lives of Dads and whether this new found appreciation will be dwarfed by the economic reality post lockdown.


To find out more about ed and claudia and how to get in touch with them along with some of the things we mentioned in our conversation:

The Power of Discord Website

Order the Book Here

Ed Tronick – Website

Claudia M. Gold – Website

Claudia on Twitter and Facebook

Babies Documentary on Netflix 



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