adolescent and child psychologist

Adolescent and Child Psychologist Stanley Hall: A Man of Firsts

“Gross well says that children are young because they play, and not vice versa; and he might have added, men grow old because they stop playing, and not conversely, for play is, at bottom, growth, and at the top of the intellectual scale it is the eternal type of research from sheer love of truth.”

Adolescent and child psychologist Stanley Hall: A Pioneer of Evolutionary Psychology

Stanley Hall earned the first doctorate in psychology ever awarded in the United States in 1878. As psychology was still in its infancy there, he then studied at the University of Berlin. When he returned, he created the first psychology laboratory in the U.S. at Johns Hopkins University. He started the American Journal of Psychology in 1887 and went on to become the first president of the American Psychological Association in 1892. He also served as the first president of Clark University from 1889 to 1920.

While president of Clark University, he contributed to the development of the field of educational psychology. He was one of the first to study the effects of adolescence on education, and invited both Sigmund Freud and Karl Jung to participate in a lecture series on that subject.

Controversies Surrounding Stanley Hall

A number of Hall’s theories proved to be controversial. One of those was the theory of recapitulation, first developed by Ernst Haeckel, who said that “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny“. Ontogeny is the growth and development of an individual organism, while phylogeny is the evolutionary history of an entire species. According to this theory, which has since been largely discredited, each developmental stage of an individual represents a stage in the evolutionary history of the species.

Some of his theories are more controversial today than they were at the time. For example, he believed that males and females should be separated during adolescence in order to successfully adapt to their gender roles. He believed that men and women had distinctly different physical, mental and spiritual roles, that women were inferior to men and that their education should not include any corrupting influences that would encourage independence.

His influence as an adolescent and child psychologist helped shape educational policies that reflected his beliefs. As an adolescent and child psychologist, he believed that puberty was a time of “storm and stress” characterized by conflict, mood swings and risk-taking behavior. His most well-received book was “Adolescence–Its Psychology and Its Relations to Physiology, Anthropology, Sociology, Sex, Crime, and Religion“.

Margaret Mead and Albert Bandura were among his most vocal critics. Bandura believed that his theory about the difficulties of adolescence would create a self-fulfilling prophecy. Mead, through her anthropological research of adolescence in other societies, concluded that the majority of the difficulties faced by adolescents is the result of civilization.

Another controversial issue was his belief in the desirability of racial eugenics and forced sterilization of those deemed unfit to breed.

Further, he believed that those who were “defective” whether physically, intellectually, or emotionally would interfere with natural selection and weaken the race. Those who were deemed fit had the responsibility of having more than one child. He once said that

“Being an only child is a disease in itself.”

Finally, he felt that emphasizing individual rights would lead to the fall of civilization.

Lasting Contributions of Stanley Hall

While many of Dr. Hall’s theories seem to lack compassion, he did recognize the difficulty of the requirement of the educational system for adolescents to remain still for long periods of time. He advocated that more physical movement be incorporated into the educational system, and may well be responsible for the creation of both recess and physical education. He was quoted as saying that

“Constant muscular activity was natural for the child, and, therefore, the immense effort of the drillmaster teachers to make children sit still was harmful and useless.”

Ironically, despite his stance on issues of race, Hall served as a mentor for Francis Cecil Sumner , the first African American to receive a Ph.D. in psychology. Sumner served as chair of the psychology department of Howard University from 1928 to 1954. During his academic career, he taught many, such as Kenneth B. Clark, who went on to become highly influential in struggle for civil rights. Because he spoke four languages, he also served as a translator and abstractor for psychological journals.

Despite what his critics called his lack of objectivity and flawed data collection methods, Hall remained highly influential as an adolescent and child psychologist and is still the second most cited “expert” in his field. He agreed with Freud’s theory that children are born sexual beings and should therefore receive sex education. He also believed that the best way to determine what to teach children next was to first determine what they already knew. This educational principle has proven to be effective and is still used in both academics and business training courses.

Fortunately for women, adolescent and child psychologist Stanley Hall may have been the first to advance psychological theories, but he wasn’t the last.

adolescent and child psychologist

November 20,2015  |

extended family

Margaret Mead and her Thoughts about the Nuclear and Extended Family

“Nobody has ever before asked the nuclear family to live all by itself in a box the way we do. With no relatives, no support, we’ve put it in an impossible situation.”

This might be the first generation of women in history that could relate to that statement. Mead believed strongly in the importance of the extended family. It’s just one of the many worthwhile quotes by cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead. Mothers and fathers alike owe her a debt of gratitude for her pioneering work.

This post is more personal in the sense that I have for an inexplicable reason and for several years now been attracted and intrigued by Margaret Mead. While I recognize her weakness lies in the scientific side of her research, she has influenced my thoughts on specific subjects more than others and she was very present when I wrote my fictional book a couple of years ago.

Even after her death, she continued to be high controversial. Among the more debatable aspects is the fact that she was among the first women to openly address were female sexuality, patriarchy consumerism and the link between race and intelligence. Many considered her opinions to be a threat to the sanctity of the family and society.


Born to professor of finance Edward Mead and sociologist Emily Mead, she worked with Franz Boas at Columbia University to obtain her Ph.D. in cultural anthropology. She was one of the first to study the role of women, when she went to Samoa in 1925 to conduct fieldwork, which resulted in her famous book “Coming of Age in Samoa: A Psychological Study of Primitive Youth for Western Civilization”, published in 1928, and republished over and over again.

“I have tried to answer the question which sent me to Samoa: Are the disturbances which vex our adolescents due to the nature of adolescence itself or to the civilization? Under different conditions does adolescence present a different picture?”

The book sparked religious and social controversy regarding the relaxation of sexual mores. Her two divorces further challenged patriarchy, fueling controversy.

Nuclear versus Extended Family

Rather than being a destructive force, she was actually a champion of the family, the nuclear and extended family. The term extended family  has two distinct meanings: it is synonym of consanguinal family (consanguine means “of the same blood”) and in societies dominated by the conjugal family, it refers to “kindred” (network of relatives that extends beyond the domestic group) who do not belong to the conjugal family. Based on her anthropological research, affirmed the centrality of the nuclear family in human society:

“As far back as our knowledge takes us, human beings have lived in families. We know of no period where this was not so. We know of no people who have succeeded for long in dissolving the family or displacing it … Again and again, in spite of proposals for change and actual experiments, human societies have reaffirmed their dependence on the family as the basic unit of human living—the family of father, mother and children.” Mead, Margaret and Ken Heyman. 1965. Family. New York: Macmillan. pp. 77-78.

However Mead observed as an anthropologist various aboriginal societies, where nuclear family structures did not exist in a strict sense. Children grew up within the extended family. Mead’s observations of those societies indicated that adolescents grew up and smoothly transitioned into adulthood without any major issues evident in our own culture.  Dominance of nuclear versus extended family structures have a sociological impact on different levels. Not only does this impact the values of a society such as caring and sharing. This impacts the role of women in a society as well.

Family Values

In a 1963 interview Mead spoke out against the dangers of consumerism and its adverse effects on the family by saying

“We tell people every day in the advertisements, on TV, over the radio: “This is the kind of house you ought to have. This is the kind of car you ought to drive. Are you keeping your wife a prisoner because you only have one car? Are you making a slave of your wife because you’ve turned her into a dishwasher instead of buying a dishwasher?”

In her opinion, children were being neglected in favor of maintaining social status through buying all the latest time-saving gadgets. She also spoke out against age segregation and felt that children would benefit both socially and educationally from the continued involvement of grandparents.

She and her third husband, Gregory Bateson, in 1936, had a daughter, Mary Catherine, who also became an anthropologist. She wrote a memoir ‘With a Daughter’s Eye”, on her mother and herself. Her pediatrician was none other than Dr. Benjamin Spock, whose theories were influenced by Mead’s anthropological observations regarding breastfeeding on demand rather than according to a rigid schedule. You can find more on Dr Spock, here. Their marriage dissolved in 1950, but their friendship lasted to the end of her lifetime. She did not marry again, but rather, stated that an individual’s sexual orientation may evolve over a lifetime.

Career Controversy

The many controversies surrounding her increased both her visibility and popularity, and made her one of the more famous women in history, at least in the 20th century. She was a regular columnist for Redbook magazine as well as often being asked to speak on radio shows. She served as curator of ethnology at of the American Museum of Natural History in New York from 1946 to1969 and as an adjunct professor at Columbia University from 1954 to 1978. She founded Fordham University’s anthropology department while a professor there and was also a faculty member at the University of Rhode Island.

After her death, her work was criticized by a number of people, including Steven Pinker, Richard Dawkins and the feminist Betty Friedan. Derek Freeman published “Margaret Mead and Samoa: The Making and Unmaking of an Anthropological Myth”, in which he accused Mead of failure to apply scientific methods to her research. He negates her claims about the society’s more relaxed sexual mores. Defenders of her work point out that much of the society had been converted to Christianity during the interim.

Contribution to the Role of Women in History

In spite of the controversy that surrounded her, on January 19, 1979, President Jimmy Carter posthumously awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The award for her important contributions was presented to her daughter at a ceremony sponsored by the American Museum of Natural History. The words on the award were as follows:

“Margaret Mead was both a student of civilization and an exemplar of it. To a public of millions, she brought the central insight of cultural anthropology: that varying cultural patterns express an underlying human unity. She mastered her discipline, but she also transcended it. Intrepid, independent, plain spoken, fearless, she remains a model for the young and a teacher from whom all may learn.”

These words speak to the truth inherent in perhaps her most well-known quote, which is

“Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

women in history

July 31,2015  |

role of women in society

Why Franz Boas, Father of Modern Anthropology, was a Champion of Equality

“There are two things to which I am devoted: absolute academic and spiritual freedom, and the subordination of the state to the interests of the individual; expressed in other forms, the furthering of conditions in which the individual can develop to the best of his ability—as far as it is possible with a full understanding of the fetters imposed upon us by tradition; and the fight against all forms of power policy of states or private organizations. This means a devotion to principles of true democracy. I object to teaching of slogans intended to befog the mind, of whatever kind they may be.” (From a letter from Boas to John Dewey on 11/6/39)

Although he’s called the “Father of Modern Anthropology”, Franz Boas (1858-1942) isn’t as famous as some of his contemporaries, or even some of his students, like Margaret Mead, who once gave George W. Bush a B+ in her class. That’s largely because he cared much more about scientific and personal integrity than about fame or personal ambition. His refusal to accept the limited role of women in society is another reason that his theories are still relevant today.

One of the most important concepts he introduced was cultural relativism, which holds that cultures cannot be objectively ranked as higher or better than others because we all view and judge the world with a perspective created by our own cultural conditioning. In Boas’ day, orthogeneticists believed that all societies progressed through the same sequential stages towards “progress”. For example, they argued that although the Intuit and German cultures were contemporaries, the German culture was at a later, more advanced stage of cultural evolution.

Boas, in opposition to many other scientists of his day, adhered to three scientific principles. The first was that science begins with questions, not answers or value judgments. The second was that science is dispassionate inquiry rather than ideology tinged with emotional prejudice, and the third was that the nature of science is inferential and judicious. He used these principles in scientific inquiry to make a great contribution to the social debate between nature and nurture.

In an experiment he conducted to determine whether bodily forms are also subject to processes of change, he studies 17, 821 people of seven ethnic/national groups. He found that the average cranial sizes of immigrants were significantly different from members of the same group who had been born in the United States. He also found that the cranial sizes of children born within ten years of their mothers’ arrival to the U.S. were different from those born more than ten years after their arrival.

This experiment clearly demonstrated that traits such as cranial size were not only inherited, but could also be affected and influenced by the environment. The results of this experiment led to his argument that any differences between races were not immutable. In a 1963 book titled “Race: The History of an Idea in America, author Thomas Gossett wrote that

“It is possible that Boas did more to combat race prejudice than any other person in history.”

Boas proved himself to be a man who lived according to his convictions on more than one occasion. For example, in 1892, he and another member of the Clark College faculty resigned to protest infringement of academic freedom by its president, G.Stanley Hall. In 1897, while with the American Museum of Natural History, he attempted to organize Native American exhibits according to cultural context rather than along evolutionary lines. That brought him into conflict with the President of the Museum, Morris Jesup, and its director, Hermon Bumpus who wanted the exhibits to express how much further behind in the evolutionary scale those cultures were compared to U.S. culture. Unable to reform the system or increase its educational potential, he resigned from the museum and never worked at another.

To his credit and the great benefit of science, Boas remained critical of his own work, and often, upon discovering new evidence, modified his own theories. For example, his study of the Tsimshian and Tlingit tribes on the northern coast of British Columbia revealed that their social organization consisted of matrilineal clans. The Nootkaand Salish tribes on the southern coast had a patrilineal social structure. The Kwakiutl tribe lived between the two and had a mixture of elements within their social structure. Before marriage, a man assumed his wife’s father’s name and family crest, his children taking them on as well. Boas at first thought that the Kwakiutl were evolving towards a patrilineal social structure, but later reversed himself, concluding that the evolution was in fact AWAY from a patrilineal structure towards a matrilineal one, learned from their northern neighbors.

Boas spent the final years of his career as a beloved and highly influential professor at Columbia University. Through his students, many of whom went on to found anthropology departments and research programmes inspired by their mentor, Boas profoundly influenced the development of anthropology. Among his most significant students were  A. L. Kroeber, Ruth Benedict, Edward Sapir, Margaret Mead, and Zora Neale Hurston, who all had their impact on Motherhood.

Because in much the same way that his work disproved many racist theories, his actions also helped discredit sexist ones, thereby changing the role of women in society. Before his death in 1942, he entrusted his female colleague Helen Codere with editing and publishing his manuscripts.

You can find more on this period of history, also greatly influenced by Emile Durkheim, the Father of Sociology, here.

role of women in society
Franz Boas, performang a Hamatsa dance. Hamatsa is Kwakwaka’wakw secret society of British Columbia, most likely a cannibal society


June 26,2015  |

parental roles

Araphesh Motherhood and Parental Roles in Today’s Society

Margaret Mead said,

“Anthropology demands the open-mindedness with which one must look and listen, record in astonishment and wonder that which one would not have been able to guess.”

And she looked and listened alright.

Equal parenting roles is really only now starting to take hold in our society, meaning that it is not as looked down on as it once was. The rise in stay-at-home dads in charge of infant development is certainly evidence of this.

National Public Radio in the United States reports the Census Bureau’s finding that 3.5 percent of stay-at-home parents are dads, and this number has doubled in the last ten years. This percentage doesn’t include dads who work part-time, and the figure is likely largely unrepresentative of the larger, true number of dads who are their children’s primary caregivers. Parental roles studies in the United States may take an interesting turn as men begin to take care of their children more and spend more time with them outside of work.

This is making big headlines in today’s news because, as a society, men are considered the breadwinners and in charge of the financial aspect of the family’s life. Women, on the other hand, are thought to be better suited to seeing to their infants’ development and taking care of the household responsibilities. Parental roles are clearly defined, but are they?

Arapesh Motherhood seen by Margaret Mead

Around the world, however, this is not necessarily the way that all societies operate. Margaret Mead, the famed cultural anthropologist who started her work in the 1920’s, observed societies in Papua New Guinea in which our cultural norms and parental roles were seemingly turned upside down and inside out.

One people group Mead studied was the Arapesh. This group had gender role expectations and parental roles than were different from some surrounding groups, and they were definitely at odds with the expectations for men and women in society in the West. In general, the male and female Arapesh were cooperative, calm, and helpful toward one another. This contrasted with the Mundugumar (Biwat) people, a group in which both men and women were more aggressive. The Tchambuli (Chambri) were even more distinct in that the women were more dominant than the men.

Ideas on parental roles were also very different. Much of Mead’s work was criticized for being too neat and fitting in easily into her nurture over nature theory, but this was how she initially described these groups of people.

Infant development and parental roles

Infant development and parental roles was a key component of Mead’s research. She noted that the Arapesh and Mundugumor mothers carried their children around in containers attached to their foreheads, according to the Library of Congress website. The Arapesh used net bags, while the Mundugumor used more rigid baskets that were likely more uncomfortable for the infants. Older children among the Mundugumor were carried around on their mothers’ backs simply by their holding on to their mothers’ hair.

Nature and Nurture, the start of a debate that lasted a century

Mead’s field work over 24 trips to the South Pacific indicated that cultural environment was at least as strong an influence as biology on gender and parental roles in a given society. She viewed humans as a whole, and she thought that all facets of life were connected. She believed that all cultures could learn from each other, states the Intercultural Studies website. In her works Male and Female and Growth and Culture”, Mead laid out her ideas that personality differences between men and women are in large part due to how they were raised instead of biological tendencies, according to the website.

Infant development among the Arapesh centered around adults considering it important to tend to their needs, despite inconvenience to themselves. Adults take care of babies by holding them and tending to their needs.

Even though the Arapesh considered childrearing  the duties of both men and women and saw equal parental roles, R. F. Fortune, Mead’s second husband noted in an “American Anthropologist” article he penned in 1939 that

“The biological multiplication of the clan is, however, a definite Arapesh ideal maintained by the clan. The Arapesh express more concern for replenishing the land with children than they do for finding land for their children. . .They give a barren woman an intentionally shameful burial.”

Today, as gender roles change, as they have in decades past, it is important to remember that raising children in a world where two incomes is essential for many families requires men and women to pitch in. Each family should decide whether the primary care of children falls to the man or woman, how to best attend to infants’ development, and each member should be comfortable with that decision. Society’s views of parental roles, working women, stay-at-home men and any combination of the two will ebb, flow, and change direction based on the way the wind is blowing at any given moment.

What is important is that the children are getting the best the parents can offer them.

Here you you will find more about the Navajo, a maternal society.

parental roles
Margaret Mead (1901-1978) Source: Wikimedia

May 15,2015  |

maternal health

What we learned from the Samoan indians on maternal health and breast feeding

Have you wondered about the history behind the re-introduction of wet nurses and breastfeeding into American and European culture?

The old ideas of breastfeeding, maternal health and wet nursing are returning as part of worldwide or universal culture as science verifies vital aspects of maternal health that some cultures never lost touch with.

What is surprising is the story behind the history of breastfeeding reintroduction due to one educated American woman.

How Margaret Mead revived breastfeeding, promoted the wet nurse profession and maternal health professional work

In the early and emerging days of the field of Anthropology, Margaret Mead decided to place her professional focus as a Ph.D. on the Samoan people. In particular, she studied sexuality of females of all ages on the island where she conducted her work in 1924. However, what was interesting was Margaret Mead’s intertwining of personal experience with her professional study of the Samoan women.

What Margaret Mead studied in Samoa

Numerous references to Margaret Mead’s work with the Samoan women in 1924 have been published in academic works over the past nine decades. What makes her work so fascinating is that Mead attempts to display observations in the most honest manner possible.

This is the main idea behind good anthropology and dispelling the problems associated with ethnocentrism. Since Mead’s work with Samoan women is considered to be sound academic work, it is still highly referenced. One field of academia that uses her research frequently is nursing and maternal health.

What breastfeeding was like for Margaret Mead

You will see films and other works about Margaret Mead announcing that she “reintroduced breastfeeding to America.” When Margaret Mead pushed the envelope with challenging ideas in America about maternal health and breastfeeding, her notions denoted several big changes. Interestingly, maternal health practices during the 1920s and 1930s relied heavily on using formula instead of breastfeeding or using a wet nurse. Popular maternal health literature of the time also asked women to give babies formula on a schedule instead of feeding the baby when it was hungry.

Margaret Mead’s relationship with Benjamin Spock

In addition to a professional relationship, Margaret Mead used Spock as a pediatrician for her own child. Mead gave birth to a girl in 1939, and sought out the top professional of her time. Spock was the author of several books on childrearing that were crucial throughout the middle of the 1900s, and Margaret Mead shaped Spock’s writing about maternal health and breastfeeding with her research before she used him as a pediatrician.

Maternal health and wet nursing

In popular media, Margaret Mead was known for her work with the Samoan women that concluded that a baby should be breastfed on demand. This differed from a previous idea that was prevalent in American culture that asked mothers to feed their babies formula on a schedule. Nevertheless, what often gets overlooked is that Mead also favored wet nursing.

In the book A Social History of Wet Nursing in America: From Breast to Bottle by Janet Golden, there is paraphrasing from Margaret Mead’s autobiography, Blackberry Winter (1972), that talks about Mead’s concerns in 1939 that she might not be able to breastfeed her own child. If this was the case, Mead remembered that she decided she would investigate hiring a wet nurse. Janet Golden suggests that Mead may have found hiring a wet nurse in 1939 a challenge because the practice was sharply on the decline due to the upsurge in infant formula use.

Margaret Mead’s enduring legacy

On a deeper level, Margaret Mead said her thoughts about her Samoan research changed when she actually became a mother. In Divided Lives: American Women in the Twentieth Century by Rosalind Rosenberg, there is a quote that explains this shift.

In her earlier books, “Coming of Age in Samoa” (1928) and “Sex and Temperament” (1935), she had portrayed motherhood as incident in the life cycle, a positive experience but not significant for the culture at large. … By the time she wrote “Male and Female” in 1949, however, Mead had begun to discuss the ways in which biology might work dialectically with environmental forces to shape culture. Maternity became the central feature of this dialectic, the one great problem that all cultures must confront in organizing gender roles. How, she asked, do societies deal with universal experiences, like pregnancy and childbirth?

Opponents of Margaret Mead 

Infant formula was introduced in the 1920s, and an aggressive campaign to sell this product began. In the forefront was Nestle that was well-known for making advertisements for developing nations that encouraged mothers to use formula instead of breastfeeding.

The situation was so dire that United Nations stepped in to rein in Nestle and other infant formula companies in favor of breastfeeding. The main issue with that was that many women in developing countries did not have access to clean drinking water, and their babies would die. While it is not easy to find information about opponents to Margaret Mead and her work with breastfeeding, what you will find is a heavy legal push in the 1960s and early 1970s by infant formula companies that disputed Benjamin Spock’s published breastfeeding advice that used Margaret Mead as a reference.

What Margaret Mead means to us today

Over the past decades, multiple branches of academics have combined to form the philosophies behind worldwide maternal health practices. In the end, Margaret Mead is still remembered because her work is still relevant. The truths that she learned from the Samoan women about breastfeeding on demand were correct and transformed maternal culture in America.

Today, we have universal maternal practices that are based upon using the most practical means possible. While we certainly have not strayed away from using infant formula, more women around the world are being shown by science and culture that breastfeeding is the best way. Perhaps in the future, Margaret Mead’s nod toward wet nursing practices will expand as breastfeeding acceptance becomes universal.

maternal health
The Natchez, Eugène Delacroix, 1835, Credit Line Gifts of George N. and Helen M. Richard and Mr. and Mrs. Charles S. McVeigh and Bequest of Emma A. Sheafer

April 15,2015  |