A History of Developmental Psychology in Autobiography

A History of Developmental Psychology in Autobiography

A History of Developmental Psychology in Autobiography

A History of Developmental Psychology in Autobiography


Employing an autobiographical approach, this book provides a view of how research and scientific inquiries are conducted while adding the human dimension generally absent from textbooks or journal articles.


Developmental psychology is not well represented in textbooks in the history of psychology. When G. Stanley Hall appears, for instance, he is more likely to be remembered for his role in the founding of the American Psychological Association (APA) than for his contributions to the child-study movement. Even Sigmund Freud, perhaps the most influential of all developmental psychologists, is apt to be cited mostly for his contributions to clinical psychology rather than for his theory of development.

Part of that neglect is due to the traditional focus on experimental psychology in psychology's history. Since many components of developmental psychology have not lent themselves well to the experimental method, the field has taken on a secondary status in some quarters. The way in which that lower rank came about is an interesting story in itself, and that story still needs to be told. Fortunately, the status of the specialty has been upgraded in recent years. There are at least two reasons why.

During the last two decades, there has been an explosion of interest in the history of psychology, and that renewed interest has resulted in a reevaluation of many parts of the field. In the process, neglected areas have been looked at with fresh eyes -- including developmental psychology. Historical overviews of the specialty have become more available (e.g., Birren &Birren, 1990; Cairns, 1983 ; Dixon &Lerner, 1988), and there is occasionally a volume devoted entirely to some aspect of the history (e.g., Cravens, 1993). Recently, as part of the APA centennial, a publication was released that was one of the boldest attempts to date to summarize the previous one hundred years of the field (Parke, et al., 1994).

The status of the field has also changed because the scope and manner of developmental psychology itself has changed. In the beginning, the leaders of psychology were also leaders of developmental psychology (e.g., Hall and Baldwin). Soon, however, their paths began to diverge. Many developmentalists were content with their approach and did not consider themselves "experimentalists" in the sense of directing research where variables were manipulated. As a result, the separation between mainstream psychology and developmental psychology became greater. But that period of separation did not last. Soon there were many changes that revivified the specialty, including the work of Lewin, the growth of "experimental child psychology," the enhanced interest in infancy and the elderly . . .

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