From the late 1800s, under the auspices of G. Stanley Hall and then independently by others, investigations of children’s development were undertaken from the perspective of recapitulation theory. This application of the theory was guided by the overarching premises that (a) human evolution was a linear chronology of biological and sociocultural progress; (b) an individual’s abilities, behaviors, and biological development followed the same evolutionary stages as had the human species (i.e., Ernst Haeckel’s dictum that ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny); and (c) the path of human evolution could be traced backward through identification of contemporary manifestations of development and behavior.
An assumption of the theory was that the human species is hierarchically differentiated by race, a concept defined by physical attributes and sociocultural practices. Persons of north-western European descent were believed to be of a race that had achieved the greatest evolutionary advancement; those of African descent, as belonging to that with the least evolutionary distance from ape ancestry. Evolutionary achievement was also differentiated by gender and economic status, with Caucasian bourgeois males ranked as superior over all others. Additionally, evolutionary progress was applied to individuals in relation to their proximity to ideals of appearance, heteronormativity, behavior and well-being.
Incorporation of these beliefs into the study of human development was productive of treatises and practices that had widespread influence in scientific and popular culture. Child-centred parenting advice, progressive educational reform, and youth organizations emphasized gendered behaviors that, it was believed, would ensure children’s surpassing their parent’s evolutionary attainment, resulting in continued progress toward an ideal Euro-Anglo race. The playground movement’s segregation of non-whites, the disabled, poor and unattractive from archetype white children was similarly based on the theory’s dictum that the former being seen by the latter would contaminate white evolutionary well-being. The theoretical beliefs became further rationalization for the incarceration of Indigenous children in residential facilities that through coercion and isolation from their communities were intended to abolish the ‘race’s’ genetic lineage. Even though child study regard for the theory declined by the 1920s, its regulatory prescripts endured within developmental psychology, continuing to significantly impact beliefs about women, non-whites, the economically disadvantaged, those with disabilities and those who are gender nonconforming. As example, through policies that limit access to educational funding with explanations that such opportunities fail to alter the economic trajectory of non-whites, and through educational content that presents bourgeois Euro-Anglo persons as representing developmental normality, Academic defence of the theory’s and its founding adherents includes its use to rationalize bigotry, violence and discrimination. It is a legacy that requires concerted effort to defeat.
Marxist ideas influenced and inspired psychological thinking and practice in the 20th century in a range of ways. In different parts of the world, unique versions of Marxist psychology emerged as answers to questions and problems raised by specific historical contexts. As shown in the early 21st century scholarly interventions in Lev Vygotsky studies, the Soviet psychologist’s work was deeply embedded in the sociopolitical, cultural, and ideological context of early Soviet Russia. In countries such as Brazil and Italy, Marxism had a more indirect influence as an emancipatory discourse. In the wider framework of Latin American liberatory ideas and struggles, the educational philosopher Paulo Freire and psychologists Ignacio Martín-Baró and Maritza Montero wanted to increase the autonomy of those in poverty with their radical ideas and practices. In Italy, mental health reformers Franco Basaglia and Franca Ongaro Basaglia wanted to end the social alienation of psychiatric patients by allying with contemporary Italian Marxists and members of other social movements to change institutions from within. In the communist countries of Eastern Europe, psychology and Marxism had a complex relationship. Marxist psychology could be used rhetorically to make psychology somehow safe for socialism, but there were also psychologists who were truly inspired by Marx and used his work to further their wider social and educational agendas. These cases all highlight the importance of the interplay between local, regional, and global aspects in the history of Marxist psychology. Taken together, they show how Marxism has been a discourse utilized for various social, cultural, and scientific ends within psychology. Rather than existing in a purely political form, Marxist ideology and thinking has often manifested in the field as (re)interpretations, traveling ideas, and conceptual hybrids. The history of Marxist psychology can be regarded as a continuous effort to reinterpret and reprocess Marx’s ideas about the human condition. The history of Marxism and psychology also reveals an inner contradiction between control and emancipation, between the ideological aim of molding “collective men” and encouraging individual autonomy.
Depression is defined in diagnostic literature as a mood disorder characterized by depressed mood, loss of interest or pleasure in activities, significant changes in weight, insomnia or hypersomnia, psychomotor agitation or retardation, fatigue or loss of energy, feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt, difficulty concentrating, and suicidal ideation and/or attempts. Research suggests a link between depressed mood and monoamine depletion, elevated cortisol, and inflammation, but existing laboratory evidence is inconclusive. Current treatments for depression include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and lifestyle changes; however, more severe forms of the disorder can require other medication, sometimes in combination with electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).
Disagreement persists over how to define and classify depression, in part due to its ambivalent relationship to melancholia, which has existed as a medical concept in different forms since antiquity. Melancholia was reconfigured in 19th-century medicine from traditional melancholy madness into a modern mood disorder. In the early 20th century, melancholia gradually fell out of use as a diagnostic term with the introduction of manic-depressive insanity and unipolar depression. Following the publication of DSM-III in 1980 and the introduction of SSRIs a few years later, major depressive disorder became ubiquitous. Consumption of antidepressants have continued to rise year after year, and the World Health Organization notes depression as the leading cause of disability worldwide.
At present, internationally recognized systems of classification favor a single category for depressive illness (alongside a circular mood disorder, bipolar I and II), but this view is challenged by clinicians and researchers who argue for the reinstatement of melancholia as a separate and distinct mood disorder with marked somatic and psychotic features.
Stanley Milgram’s experiments on obedience to authority are among the most influential and controversial social scientific studies ever conducted. They remain staples of introductory psychology courses and textbooks, yet their influence reaches far beyond psychology, with myriad other disciplines finding lessons in them. Indeed, the experiments have long since broken free of the confines of academia, occupying a place in popular culture that is unrivaled among psychological experiments. The present article begins with an overview of Milgram’s account of his experimental procedure and findings, before focussing on recent scholarship that has used materials from Milgram’s archive to challenge many of the long-held assumptions about the experiments. Three areas in which our understanding of the obedience experiments has undergone a radical shift in recent years are the subject of particular focus. First, work that has identified new ethical problems with Milgram’s studies is summarized. Second, hitherto unknown methodological variations in Milgram’s experimental procedures are considered. Third, the interactions that took place in the experimental sessions themselves are explored. This work has contributed to a shift in how we see the obedience experiments. Rather than viewing the experiments as demonstrations of people’s propensity to follow orders, it is now clear that people did not follow orders in Milgram’s experiments. The experimenter did a lot more than simply issue orders, and when he did, participants found it relatively straightforward to defy them. These arguments are discussed in relation to the definition of obedience that has typically been adopted in psychology, the need for further historical work on Milgram’s experiments, and the possibilities afforded by the development of a broader project of secondary qualitative analysis of laboratory interaction in psychology experiments.
Mind cure, or mental healing, was a late 19th-century American healing movement that extolled a metaphysical mind-over-matter approach to the treatment of illness. Emerging in New England in the mid-19th century out of a mix of mesmerism and metaphysical philosophies, due to its effectiveness, by the 1880s it achieved national recognition. Three individuals are credited with creating and popularizing mental (or metaphysical) healing: Phineas Parkhurst Quimby, Warren Felt Evans, and Mary Baker Eddy. Mind cure was appealing because it helped treat ailments for which the medicines of the day were ineffective, especially problems with the “nerves.” Mental healers employed non-invasive mental and spiritual methods to treat ailing people, called mental therapeutics. As a practice and therapeutic philosophy, mind cure is historically noteworthy because it shaped the earliest forms of psychotherapy in the United States, advanced therapeutic work within the realm of mind-body medicine, birthed the influential New Thought movement, and helped set the stage for the beginnings of religious pluralism and the positive reception of Asian meditation teachers in the West.
Raymond E. Fancher
Robert Winthrop White was an important psychologist and personality researcher at Harvard University during the middle years of the 1900s. First as a student and then chief lieutenant and colleague of Henry A. Murray at the Harvard Psychological Clinic, White became a leading proponent of Murray’s intensively case study-oriented “personological” approach to personality analysis and description. This approach emphasized that personality is not a fixed entity but a constantly changing and developing configuration of many different factors, which must be appreciated as a whole and is best conveyed in the context of individual life histories. Although sometimes overshadowed by both Murray and Harvard personality psychologist Gordon Allport, who both promoted the life study approach, White became the most prolific and skilled early practitioner of that approach. His early case study of “Earnst” was the only one selected to illustrate the Murray project’s personological approach in the seminal 1938 work Explorations in Personality. As the “caretaker” director of the clinic in the late 1930s and early 1940s, White oversaw the collection of numerous further case histories, several of which became the foundations of four highly influential books: The Abnormal Personality, Lives in Progress, Opinions and Personality, and The Enterprise of Living. In 1959, White made important contributions to the theory of motivation by asserting that the standard conception of motives as tension-reducing instincts or drives was severely limited and should be complemented by an innate “effectance” motive: an innate tendency to seek rather than reduce tension while achieving “competence” in dealing with the outside world.
Nature–nurture is a dichotomous way of thinking about the origins of human (and animal) behavior and development, where “nature” refers to native, inborn, causal factors that function independently of, or prior to, the experiences (“nurture”) of the organism. In psychology during the 19th century, nature-nurture debates were voiced in the language of instinct versus learning. In the first decades of the 20th century, it was widely assumed that that humans and animals entered the world with a fixed set of inborn instincts. But in the 1920s and again in the 1950s, the validity of instinct as a scientific construct was challenged on conceptual and empirical grounds. As a result, most psychologists abandoned using the term instinct but they did not abandon the validity of distinguishing between nature versus nurture. In place of instinct, many psychologists made a semantic shift to using terms like innate knowledge, biological maturation, and/or hereditary/genetic effects on development, all of which extend well into the 21st century. Still, for some psychologists, the earlier critiques of the instinct concept remain just as relevant to these more modern usages.
The tension in nature-nurture debates is commonly eased by claiming that explanations of behavior must involve reference to both nature-based and nurture-based causes. However, for some psychologists there is a growing pressure to see the nature–nurture dichotomy as oversimplifying the development of behavior patterns. The division is seen as both arbitrary and counterproductive. Rather than treat nature and nurture as separable causal factors operating on development, they treat nature-nurture as a distinction between product (nature) versus process (nurture). Thus there has been a longstanding tension about how to define, separate, and balance the effects of nature and nurture.
Sven Hroar Klempe
The term “psychology” was applied for the first time in the 16th century. Yet the most interesting examples appeared in three different contexts. The Croatian poet and humanist Marko Marulić (ca. 1520), the German philosopher and Calvinist Johann Thomas Freig (1575), and the German Lutheran philosopher Rudolph Goclenius (1590). Marulić’s manuscript is likely lost, and neither of the other two defined the term. Even the interests of the three went apparently in different directions. Marulić focused on poetry and history, Freig on physica, and Goclenius on theological issues. Nevertheless, they had something in common, and this may represent the gate through which the ways they conceived the term can be understood. They all dealt with the soul, but also that it was a highly disputable concept and not uniformly understood. Another commonality was the avoidance or reinterpretation of Aristotle’s philosophy. The Florentines’ cultivation of Plato had influenced Marulić. Freig was a Ramist, thus, also a humanist who approached philosophical questions rhetorically. Goclenius belonged partly to the same movement. Consequently, they all shared a common interest in texts and language. This is just one, yet quite important aspect of the origin of psychology as a science. Thus, these text- and humanity-oriented aspects of psychology are traceable from the very beginning. This reaches a peak point when Alexander Baumgarten publishes his two volumes on aesthetics, as they were based on Christian Wolff’s Psychologia empirica (1732). They are also traceable in Kant’s critical phase, and even more in Wundt’s folkpsychology. Thus there is a more or less continuous line from the very first uses of the term psychology and some tendencies in social and cultural psychology. In other words, psychology is pursued along an historical line that ends up in the German, and not the British enlightenment.
Petteri Pietikainen and Jesper Vaczy Kragh
The history of psychology in the Nordic countries has distinct similarities among the countries. For centuries, close cultural and scientific ties have existed between the five countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden). Almost without exception, early Nordic university psychologists were inspired by German experimental psychology of the late 19th century. It became an almost mandatory part of their training to study psychology in Wilhelm Wundt’s laboratory in Leipzig or at similar institutions in Germany. The German model also served as an inspiration for psychological laboratories, which were established in the Nordic countries from the late 1880s onward. The first chair in psychology was established in Denmark in 1919, when Alfred Lehmann was appointed professor at the University of Copenhagen, and during the next decades Sweden, Norway, and Finland, respectively, followed suit.
Following the strong ethos of governmental social planning that was emphasized all over Western Europe in the postwar decades, Nordic psychologists aligned themselves with the state in general and with the formation of the (social-democratic) welfare state in particular. Throughout this era, applied psychology occupied a major role in psychology. At first, psychologists were engaged in “psychotechnics,” including aptitude testing, personnel selection, and vocational guidance and counseling. Then, in the postwar decades, clinical psychology became an increasingly important part of applied psychology. One could say that psychology was heavily engaged in the adjustment policy in working life, education, and counseling in all Nordic countries. At the turn of the millennium, Nordic psychology appeared to have more research into psychological disorders and psychophysiological and neuroscience research than the rest of the world, and less on educational psychology. Within the Nordic countries, Finland and Sweden form one cluster with higher proportions of psychophysiological studies, and Denmark and Norway another cluster with higher relative proportions of psychological articles dealing with health treatment and prevention. All the Nordic countries have a very high number of psychologists in relation to their populations, and psychologists have a visible societal role as “architects of adjustment” who help individuals to find their place in society.
Psychosomatics concerns those physical disorders not caused by an organic event but caused by psychological events. These disorders, called “psychosomatic,” may involve different organs and systems and it is possible a wide range of cases of possible psychosomatic disorders.
The term psychosomatics itself represents all the complexity and tension of this discipline. It contains a dualism that contrasts with the theory at the heart of psychosomatic medicine—the functional and synergistic unitary nature of soma and psyche.
The psychosomatic problem represents the original nucleus at the inception of the psychoanalytic movement that concerns itself precisely with the physical disorders devoid of an anatomopathological substratum. With the development of the libido theory and the resulting hypotheses on the development of neurosis, Freud proposed a model that integrates the somatic, psychic, and social component, and it represents in a convincing way physical diseases that occur as a result of psychological events. Freud created two distinct approaches in the explanation of psychosomatic disorders: the first makes use of a system of conversion of the psychic into the somatic, and the second raises problems of biological nature, in the sense that a psychological factor (anxiety) would directly activate the sympathetic system and therefore the organic functions it controls.
The conflict theory was the first major paradigm of psychosomatic medicine, and most efforts by the first generation of psychosomatists aimed to test this hypothesis and identify psychological conflicts that were typical of patients suffering from diseases considered psychosomatic in nature. Some scholars—such as Federn, Goddeck, Deutsch, Dumbar and Alexander, Schultz-Hencke, von Weizsäcker, Schilder, Schur, de Mitsherlich, de Boor—starting from the Freudian psychoanalysis, emphasize a particular psychoanalytic mechanism interpreted as a cause of psychosomatic disorders. The panorama of contemporary psychosomatics is certainly much more varied than the classical one, and new proposals and conceptions have emerged alongside the psychoanalytic model. The main contemporary models aim to integrate the knowledge of medicine and psychoanalysis into a coherent and unitary theoretical whole. The goal is therefore the unification of the ontological and scientific dualism that sees the body of medicine as opposed to the psyche of psychoanalysis. The contemporary theories all converge in the analysis of the original mechanisms of formation and development of subjectivity that is named according to the search to address ego, self, or identity.
The interdisciplinary connections between psychology, the humanities, and the arts in Russia played a powerful role in delineating the unique character of the psychological field in the country. During the 19th and early 20th centuries an approach in Russian psychology that drew on the work of philosophers and theologists, art and literature critics, poets and writers represented a powerful current in the Russian quest for self-understanding. The interdisciplinary exchanges between psychology, sciences, and the arts intensified after the October Revolution of 1917. The revolution’s imperative of reshaping the world in a socialist mold ushered in a period of bold experimentation in the arts and the formulation of similarly ambitious research agendas in the sciences. The first 15 years following the revolution saw intense traffic between scientific laboratories, research institutes, and teaching institutions, on the one hand, and theaters, art studios, and the cinema industry, on the other, reconfiguring what had traditionally been understood as the distinct domains of science and art. The ideal of synthetic knowledge and the imperative of integration, especially in the domain of psychology, was also the main driving force behind the emergence of the cultural-historical paradigm proposed by Lev Vygotsky. Moreover, many of Vygotsky’s key concepts—including sign, mediation, and “perejivanie” (emotional work)—are indebted to his early encounters with literature, theater, and art criticism. A non-classical paradigm, the most recent and original development in Russian psychology, continues to draw important insights from aesthetic theories and philosophy. Overall, the Russian tradition in psychological humanities provides a powerful example of epistemological practice that brings art, humanistic inquiry, and scientific research well and truly together, generating a remarkable synthesis of knowledge.
There are several aspects of the history of psychological knowledge in Brazilian culture for the period between the 16th and 18th centuries, some of which highlight the process of the transmission and the reception of the European framework. Cultural history methods can be used, organizing the sources by literary genres. Sources analyzed can include philosophical treatises, letters, sermons, and allegorical novels. The Conimbricenses treatises (a set of books brought in the baggage by the missionaries of the Society of Jesus in Brazil) synthesize the philosophical psychology of the Aristotelian-Thomist and Augustinian framework and propose a systematic work of ordering psychic experiences in order to make them a constructive factor of the integral development of the person. The letters are the oldest written documents in Brazil, from the beginning of the 16th century; the quantitatively more consistent epistolary correspondence sent from colonial Brazil to Europe is that of the Jesuits, from their arrival in 1549, with the mission of evangelizing the indigenous people and assisting the colonists. The letters’ authors observed and described psychological experiences from their own experience and from the experience of the indigenous peoples, from the perspective of the knowledge at their disposal. Concepts, practices, and beliefs of the classical, medieval, and Western Renaissance tradition, aimed at changing the habits and mentality of individuals and social groups, were communicated to the Brazilian populations through sermons. All the dimensions of psychic dynamism proposed and acting in the genre of sacred oratory function in relation to the transcendent objects. The psyche was conceived as integrated to the totality of the personal dynamism: the psyche mediated between body and spirit, and this interrelation could be promoted by the preacher’s word. The sacred oratory became a veritable laboratory of the efficacy of the word to care for and heal the imbalances of the person’s psychic apparatus. The concept of human life as a pilgrimage is the plot of two important sources elaborated in colonial Brazil, inscribed in the genre of the allegorical novel História do Predestinado Peregrino e de seu irmão Precito written by Father Alexandre de Gusmão of Bahia and Compêndio narrativo do Peregrino de América(1728) written by Nuno Marques Pereira. Within the scope of the view of the homo viator, the function of the psychic dynamism was delineated and the psychological knowledge proposed by the two novels constructed. What is the relevance of this knowledge for the Brazilian culture of the present? The collective memory of the constituent cultural subjects of Brazilian society is the great cradle transmitting the psychological knowledge elaborated, received, and appropriated. Psychic dynamism plays a fundamental role, configuring a certain way of being, where differences, like threads in the loom, are composed, coupled, and intertwined.
Psychology has always been a discipline immersed in the social and political currents of the day. At the level of psychological theory—whether one considers early pioneers such as Freud, Skinner, and Rogers, or, more recently, Seligman and the neuroscientific turn—its affinity with dominant socio-political concerns is easily demonstrated. Far from such individuals being calculating ideologues, however, they were interpellated—inevitably—by a field of power in which their personal and working lives were already embedded. On the other hand, it is equally true that Psychology’s phenomenal growth in the 20th century was built—most deliberately—on the alliances it formed with powerful bureaucratic elites. The discipline’s proximity to power, that is, meant not only that it could be co-opted ideologically but also that it would collude with oppressive regimes to enhance its own prestige. Project CAMELOT is one example where psychologists were willing to cooperate with the U.S. military in the service of a foreign policy that terrorized Latin America. The discipline also thrived under the Nazis with psychologists heavily involved in meeting the operational requirements of the Wehrmacht. Afrikaner psychologists in South Africa formed a close association with the apartheid state in both ideological and practical terms. More recently, the involvement of the American Psychological Association in a torture scandal has drawn attention once again to the discipline’s potential for collusion with institutional powers. In historiographic terms, some will take issue with the delivery of moral judgments when documenting the history of Psychology. However, the writing of history does not preclude such judgments, especially at a time when the exercise of power permeates disciplinary, institutional, and social life.
Residues of (Post-)Kantian Philosophy in Early Scientific Psychology and Hermann von Helmholtz’s Idealism
Liesbet de Kock
German scientist Hermann von Helmholtz (1821–1894) is widely acknowledged as one of the leading intellectuals and scientists of his time. Originally trained as a physiologist, Helmholtz contributed substantially to the fields of mathematics, physics, acoustics, ophthalmology, and the emerging science of psychology, amongst others. Not only did Helmholtz’s research interests cover a vast array of different topics, he furthermore paired his scientific endeavors with a continuous philosophical reflection upon the nature of science and knowledge, and of human cognition in general. Helmholtz’s philosophical interests were especially salient in his theory of perception, in which he attempted to reconcile his empirical viewpoint with insights derived from the idealist philosophies of Immanuel Kant and Johann Gottlieb Fichte. This dovetailing between empiricism and (transcendental) idealism has fascinated philosophers ever since the publication of Helmholtz’s work. Although Helmholtz famously rejected Kant’s theory of space, he considered his own theory of perception as a further elaboration and empirical confirmation of Kant’s and (to a lesser degree of) Fichte’s philosophical systems. Notwithstanding the abiding philosophical interest in the nature and extent of Helmholtz’s allegiance to German Idealism, the philosophical dimension of his work has not received the attention it deserves in the historiography of psychology. Revisiting Helmholtz’s intellectual relation to transcendental idealism, however, could not only help correct and enrich simplified accounts of his psychological and epistemological position, it furthermore provides a highly interesting illustration of the hitherto poorly understood relation between (neo-)Kantianism and the dawn of scientific psychology in 19th-century Germany.
Andrew S. Winston
The use of psychological concepts and data to promote ideas of an enduring racial hierarchy dates from the late 1800s and has continued to the present. The history of scientific racism in psychology is intertwined with broader debates, anxieties, and political issues in American society. With the rise of intelligence testing, joined with ideas of eugenic progress and dysgenic reproduction, psychological concepts and data came to play an important role in naturalizing racial inequality. Although racial comparisons were not the primary concern of most early mental testing, results were employed to justify beliefs regarding Black “educability” and the dangers of Southern and Eastern European immigration. Mainstream American psychology became increasingly liberal and anti-racist in the late 1930s and after World War II. However, scientific racism did not disappear and underwent renewal during the civil rights era and again during the 1970s and 1990s, Intelligence test scores were a primary weapon in attempts to preserve segregated schools and later to justify economic inequality. In the case of Henry Garrett, Arthur Jensen, and Philippe Rushton, their work included active, public promotion of their ideas of enduring racial differences, and involvement with publications and groups under control of racial extremists and neo-Nazis. Despite 100 years of strong critiques of scientific racism, a small but active group of psychologists helped revive vicious 19th-century claims regarding Black intelligence, brain size, morality, criminality, and sexuality, presented as detached scientific facts. These new claims were used in popular campaigns that aimed to eliminate government programs, promote racial separation, and increase immigration restriction. This troubling history raises important ethical questions for the discipline.
In the second half of the 19th century, the study of the phenomenon of the dream was undertaken with “scientific” method, by physicians, physiologists, and psychiatrists before the birth of the “myth” advanced by Freud who claimed for psychoanalysis the birthright of the psychological study of dreams. The article highlights the long and varied process of obtaining scientific knowledge of dreams and the dreaming process, and sheds light on researchers and traditions that have not received as much attention as they should have.
Donald Brown, Karyna Pryiomka, and Joshua W. Clegg
Self-observation, an umbrella term for a number of methods associated with first-order accounts of mental activity (e.g. introspection) and first-person reporting, has been a part of psychology’s investigative procedures since the inception of the discipline. It remains an integral, albeit contested, tool for psychologists to use across essentially every sub-field. In areas such as phenomenology, memory research, psychological assessment, and ethnography, among others, self-observation has been deployed to access information not readily acquired through alternative methods. Other names for introspective methods include self-report, retrospection, inner perception, and self-reflection.
Sebastian E. Bartos
Both academic and lay definitions of sex vary. However, definitions generally gravitate around reproduction and the experience of pleasure. Some theoretical approaches, such as psychoanalysis and evolutionary psychology, have positioned sexuality at the center of psychological phenomena. Much research has also linked sex to health and disease. On the one hand, certain sexual thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and identities have been described as pathological. Over time, some of these have been accepted as normal (especially homosexuality), while new forms of pathology have also been proposed (e.g., “porn addiction”). On the other hand, some aspects of sexuality are being researched due to their relevance to public health (e.g., sex education) or to counseling (e.g., assisted reproduction). Sex research has always been controversial, paradoxically receiving both positive attention and disdain. These contradictory social forces have arguably affected both the content and the scientific quality of sex research.
Ross D. Parke
Social development is the sub area of developmental psychology that concerns the description of children’s development of relationships with others, their understanding of the meaning of their relationships with others, and their understanding of others’ behaviors, attitudes, and intentions. The examination of the social, emotional, biological, and cognitive processes that account for these developmental changes in social development are of interest as well. The historical shifts in the understanding of social development from Darwin to the present can be traced by an examination of the major theoretical and methodological advances that have characterized this area of inquiry. The history of social development is divided into five time periods—the beginning years (1880–1915), a period of conceptual clashes (1915–1940), a period of expansion (1940–1960), an era that saw the rise of contemporary themes (1960–1985), and the current period (from 1985 to 2019). Finally, future directions and unresolved issues are noted.
Jill Suitor, Megan Gilligan, Marissa Rurka, Yifei Hou, and Gulcin Con
Theories of social gerontology have progressed from a focus on individuals’ later-life decline to theories that emphasize the intra- and interindividual variability of later-life experiences and the ways in which such heterogeneity is conditioned by social structural, cultural, and interpersonal factors that often begin in childhood and continue to shape individuals and members of their social networks across the life course. Consistent with theories across the sciences, theories of social gerontology predict and explain real-world experiences. In the case of social gerontology, the goals of theory address a wide array of phenomena, ranging from individuals’ attitudes and motivations, social networks and social support, the actions and functions of formal organizations, the embodiment of cultural norms and stereotypes, social determinants of health, and sources of inequality throughout the life course.. As the field of social gerontology has developed, theories in the field have shown increasing complexity, particularly regarding the roles of early life course experiences, social structural positions, and interpersonal relations in explaining variations in well-being, longevity, and the quality of life across the lifespan. As part of this increased complexity, social gerontology has become increasingly cross-disciplinary, spanning disciplines such as sociology, psychology, biology, anthropology, public health, medicine, and engineering, with a strong emphasis on how each discipline can contribute to developing principles that transcend individual fields. These integrative theories of social gerontology are crucial to developing comprehensive approaches to improving the health and well-being of individuals throughout the life course. Theories of social gerontology help us comprehensively understand the aging process by emphasizing individual characteristics, social relationships, and the larger cultural contexts in which individuals’ lives are embedded.