Although a few years ago I gave some thought to autobiography with respect to my recent work in environmental psychology ( Wapner, 1990), the invitation to contribute to the present volume served as a trigger to make me focus even more sharply on my relationship to developmental psychology. I take as my task tracing the people, places, and events that guided me in adopting the holistic, developmental, systems-oriented perspective that I currently hold (e.g., Wapner, 1977, 1978, 1981, 1987a, 1991, 1992; Wapner & Demick, 1991a). 1 Such a journey must go back to family background, formal education, and professional career.
I was born in Brooklyn, New York, on November 20, 1917, the son of warm, growth-fostering parents. When I was twelve years old my father passed away four days after the onset of a sudden, misdiagnosed illness. This traumatic event, which was not prevented by my deep, intense prayers, had a profound impact on moving me atheistically to a religion restricted to conformity to high ethical standards -- a position I recognize as guiding my experience and action over these many years since my father's unexpected death. He -- an excellent craftsman, an upholsterer by trade and owner of a furniture and decorating business -- instilled my interest in doing things with my hands and my head, thereby fostering my ongoing aesthetic interest in creating sculpture, toying with the possibility of a career in architecture, and enjoying the challenge of fixing broken things. My mother, a loving, good-humored, tender person, instilled my interest in doing things with my heart and my head; fostered and took joy in my individual development; nurtured my respect for, interest in, and sensitivity to other people; cultivated in me the pleasure of doing creative work; infused in me my love for a job well done; fostered my skill of handling multiple tasks simultaneously and my capacity for appreciating the enjoyment derived from completing the smallest chore to the largest project that was initiated.
This home background -- including the empathic support of an older brother, two older sisters, and an adoring younger sister -- served well in helping me, not