Child Behavior and Development: A Course of Representative Studies

Child Behavior and Development: A Course of Representative Studies

Child Behavior and Development: A Course of Representative Studies

Child Behavior and Development: A Course of Representative Studies

Excerpt

As the editors have explained in their Preface, this volume differs in content, organization, and purpose from previous textbooks and handbooks. It may be pointed out as a further characterization of the volume that it marks a significant phase in the field of child behavior and development, since it indicates that this relatively new scientific endeavor has reached a certain stage of maturity.

To present an adequate and valid history of child psychology would call for a detailed and fully documented record far beyond the scope of this modest sketch, which attempts only to offer a perspective from which to view the varied studies that follow.

The earlier studies of child behavior were largely the work of a few isolated individuals who, with little precedent and no established procedures, began to observe and record the development of single children. These first biographies, however carefully prepared, might be called "naturalistic studies" like the early work of the naturalists who observed the outstanding events in the march of the seasons. It seems fair to say that the pioneer students of child behavior approached their subjects directly and more or less naïvely, with little concern about methods, untroubled by any perplexities over the question of whether or not their work was strictly scientific.

From these beginnings to the present there has been a steadily growing self- consciousness and self-criticism that, as suggested earlier, may now be said to have reached a definite stage of sophistication, of which this book may be cited as a significant indicator.

It is apparent that the studies in child psychology, like all other scientific endeavors, reflect the major preoccupations and methodological predilections that were present during the early course of its development. Almost of necessity, the students in any new discipline must seek guidance from the studies that have been longer organized and must acknowledge the prestige of and seek recognition among the members of the scientific guilds to which they are allied. Thus it appears that when the more systematic attempts to study child behavior and child development began in the second decade of this century, they were focused primarily upon the study of specific traits and capacities. They dealt with professional problems of psychology such as the relation between two variables and utilized the then current procedures as methods of investigation.

The predominant search for methods that could be considered purely quantitative and objective has been one of the outstanding characteristics in Ameri-

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