Prof. Jerome Kagan, a Harvard psychologist whose analysis into temperament discovered that shy infants typically develop up to be troubled and fearful adults due to their organic nature in addition to the best way they have been nurtured, died on May 10 in Chapel Hill, N.C. He was 92.
Janet Kagan, his daughter, stated he had been visiting her for a number of months in North Carolina, the place he had deliberate to relocate from his residence in Belmont, Mass., exterior Boston.
Prof. Daniel (*92*), one other Harvard psychologist and writer, described Professor Kagan in an e-mail as “one of the most influential psychologists of the 20th century.”
“His research was not only original and groundbreaking,” he added, “but also prescient, foreshadowing the coming merger of psychology and biology in its attempt to link behavior to the brain.”
Professor Kagan argued in additional than two dozen books, together with the broadly praised “The Nature of the Child” (1984), that some kids have been genetically wired to fear and that they proved to be extra resilient than anticipated as they handed from one stage of maturity to one other. He additionally contended that the specifics of parenting have been typically not as essential to a baby’s future as mother and father suppose, though the kid’s pure predisposition to be shy or exuberant may very well be altered by expertise.
His conclusions that some kids could also be born predisposed to a selected temperament could have come as some aid to the numerous mother and father of child boomers who had rigidly adopted the nurturing recommendation of Dr. Benjamin Spock however nonetheless raised a era of rebellious youngsters within the Sixties.
Professor Kagan and his collaborators, together with Howard A. Moss and Nancy C. Snidman, pioneered the reintroduction of physiology as a determinant of psychological traits that may very well be measured within the mind.
They derived their conclusions from prolonged research that began with the videotaped reactions of toddlers and infants as younger as 4 months to numerous stimuli — unfamiliar objects, folks and conditions — and correlated these reactions to their temperament as youngsters and past, as measured in interviews.
The wary ones who have been subdued, shy and hovered round their moms or who fussed, thrashed round and cried — about 15 p.c of the whole — tended to grow to be anxious, inhibited adults. Another 15 p.c who have been ebullient as infants and embraced each new toy and interviewer tended to become fearless kids and adolescents.
Professor Kagan acknowledged that as an ideological liberal he had initially believed that each one people have been able to reaching comparable objectives if afforded the identical alternatives. “I was so resistant to awarding biology much influence,” he wrote.
But he additionally concluded that correctly run instructional remedial programs were valuable as a result of, aside from the tiny quantity with acute mind harm, a overwhelming majority of youngsters, no matter race or class, had the flexibility to grasp the mental abilities that faculties require so long as the scholars have been instilled with confidence that they might succeed.
Professor Kagan reassured women who labored exterior the house that infants in day care barely differed from those that have been residence with their moms, when it comes to attachment, separation, cognitive functioning and language.
His “The Nature of the Child” drew acclaim as a result of, because the psychologist and author Daniel Goleman wrote in The New York Times Book Review, Professor Kagan was “among those rare men of science who have also mastered the essayist’s art.”
Jerome Kagan, a grandson of immigrants from Eastern Europe, was born on Feb. 25, 1929, in Newark to Joseph and Myrtle (Lieberman) Kagan, who ran a shoe retailer in Rahway, N.J.
“My memory is that I was an anxious child” who stuttered throughout his first two years of elementary faculty, he recalled in an oral history interview in 1993 with the Society for Research in Child Development.
In these days, mother and father and psychologists understood the supply of many anxieties to be experiential. That proved intriguing to him.
“During the 1940s and ’50s, many citizens and social scientists believed that the main, if not the only, cause of the problems that plague our species were childhood experiences,” he informed The Harvard Gazette in 2010.
“It followed,” he added, “that anyone who discovered the specific experiences that led to a mental illness, crime or school failure would be a hero doing God’s work. Who would not entertain the idea of becoming a child psychologist, given this zeitgeist?”
He graduated with a bachelor’s diploma in biology and psychology from Rutgers University in 1950 and acquired a doctorate in psychology in 1954 from Yale, the place he had been recruited to examine by Prof. Frank A. Beach, a distinguished psychologist.
He taught briefly at Ohio State, was drafted into the Army and performed analysis at the army hospital at West Point. He then joined the Fels Research Institute in Yellow Springs, Ohio, the place his and Dr. Moss’s work resulted in a e book on youngster growth, “Birth to Maturity” (1962).
He accepted a proposal by Harvard to assist set up its first human growth program and was named a psychology professor there in 1964. He remained at Harvard, aside from a yr of fieldwork in Guatemala, till his retirement in 2005.
In 1963, Professor Kagan was awarded the American Psychiatric Association’s Hofheimer Prize; in 1995, he acquired the American Psychological Association’s G. Stanley Hall Award.
His different books embody “The Growth of the Child: Reflections on Human Development” (1978), “Galen’s Prophecy: Temperament in Human Nature” (1994) and “A Trio of Pursuits: Puzzles in Human Development” (2021).
In addition to his daughter, he’s survived by a granddaughter and a great-grandson. His spouse, Cele (Katzman) Kagan, whom he married in 1951, died in 2020.
Whatever inhibitions Professor Kagan had as an anxious youngster with a stutter, he apparently outgrew them.
“Every encounter with Jerry began with ‘I just learned something amazing!’ after which he would prove he had,” Professor (*92*), of Harvard, stated. “He grasped your hand and your shoulder and pulled you toward him, and he wouldn’t let go of either until you’d agreed that this new fact, idea or discovery was indeed the most fantastic thing you’d ever contemplated.
“And then he’d say, ‘So what have you learned lately?’ and expect you to dazzle him in return.”