and speculative theorizing that were characteristic of the field before World War II.
If child psychology is compared with the natural and social sciences, it is evident that it is an unusual discipline. Child psychology is young-- indeed, in its childhood--and it is in a formative state that is changing and challenging. The field is full of exciting complexities.
G. Stanley Hall, the father of the child study movement, lived less than a century ago, whereas Sir Isaac Newton, called the father of physics, lived three centuries ago. Any science evolves slowly, progressing by means of the interplay of ideas and experiments. As each part of the body of knowledge both checks and spurs on the other parts, a theoretical framework evolves to serve as the basis for further advances.
Because child psychology is so young, it can be expected to continue its development. It will do so more slowly than other disciplines, because it deals with more complexities and more variables than other disciplines such as the natural sciences. For example, "H2O" means an identifiable molecule, but "child" has no such specific and recognizable limits. We are studying a class of immature living organisms. Each member of this class responds to two sets of events, those within the organism and those out in the environment, and both of these types of events are slowly changing. Each way of studying a child--such as the developmental or the environmental--is useful; but combined, the ways are more important than they can ever be separately.
This book is only an introduction to child and adolescent psychology; it cannot make you an expert on children or adolescents. We can hope to interest you to go further and perhaps to extend the boundaries of this young science, to become a new Hall or Binet or Piaget. We shall be satisfied if you become a more informed and more competent person than you would have been if you had not studied child psychology, and if, by learning more about what you were, you achieve a better understanding of what and who you are.
Although common sense would tell us that children are intrinsically interesting, our forebears had an entirely different opinion. From the end of the Roman Empire until the rise of the modern middle class, western society did little to discriminate between children and adults. Discipline was severe, and in some countries children were bound as apprentices at an early age.