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Granville Stanley Hall (1844-1924)

Granville Stanley Hall, the first president of the American Psychological Association, was born in Ash-field, Massachusetts. Hall was enrolled in Williston Seminary, and then went to Williams College, where he graduated in 1867.

Around 1870 Hall traveled to Germany, where he was influenced by Nature-philosophy, especially by its genetic (i.e., developmental) approach. After obtaining his doctorate at Harvard University under the supervision of William James in 1878, he visited Germany again to study experimental psychology (with Wilhelm Wundt and others) and physiology. In 1883 he founded the first psychology laboratory in the United States at Johns Hopkins University, and became president of Clark University in 1889. There he began to develop a systematic theory of child development. By that time he had been involved in educational theory and practices that were based on progressivism and ancestral recapitulation theory proposed by German biologist Ernst Haeckel.

Hall believed that curricula should be attuned to sequentially emerging children's needs that reflect the evolutional history of humankind. In addition, by studying the natural, normative course of child development, one could construct an evolutionary history of human behavior, mind, and culture, which is the chief concern of present-day evolutionary psychology. Hall encouraged the collection of anecdotal descriptions of individual children's behavior by psychologists as well as by educators and parents. He also introduced a questionnaire method to understand the content of children's minds. These methods, which have been criticized as methodologically weak, have been reappraised by contemporary psychologists like Sheldon White. Hall's most influential work is Adolescence (1904). In it he explained psychological development up to adolescence mainly in terms of the biological theory of recapitulation. Hall believed in the perfectibility of humankind; thus adolescents' adaptability might provide the jumping-off point for the fulfillment of human potential and evolutionary advancement.

Hall's influence as a developmentalist and promoter of child study movement was seen in non-Western countries like Japan, especially around the 1900s. That was the period when Japanese educators and psychologists began their effort to collect child development data in Japan as a necessary provision for establishing education suited to the nation. Hall also set a meeting ground for Freudian psychoanalysis and American psychiatry and psychology in 1909, leading to acceptance of psychoanalysis in the United States and stimulating later studies. Toward the end of his life Hall published a book, Senescence (1922), which dealt with various aspects of changes and their problems. Though the biological theories Hall adopted had long been discredited, the last decade of the twentieth century witnessed a reappraisal of Hall's contribution to the developmental sciences.

Granville Stanley Hall (sitting center) was the first president of American Psychological Association. (Corbis-Bettmann)


Appley, Mortimer Herbert. "G. Stanley Hall: Vow on Mount Owen." In Stewart H. Hulse and Bert F. Green, Jr. eds., One Hundred Years of Psychological Research in America: G. Stanley Hall and the Johns Hopkins Tradition. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986.

Cairns, Robert B. "The Making of Developmental Psychology." InHandbook of Child Psychology, Vol. 1, 5th edition, edited by Richard M. Lerner. New York: Wiley, 1998.

Dixon, Roger A., and Richard M. Lerner. "A History of Systems inDevelopmental Psychology." InDevelopmental Psychology: An Advanced Textbook, 3rd edition, edited by Marc H. Bornstein and Michael E. Lamb. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 1992.

Morss, John R. The Biologizing of Childhood: Developmental Psychology and the Darwinian Myth. Hove, United Kingdom: Lawrence Erlbaum, 1990.

Ross, Dorothy G. Stanley Hall: The Psychologist as Prophet. Chicago:University of Chicago Press, 1972.

White, Sheldon H. "G. Stanley Hall: From Philosophy to Developmental Psychology."Developmental Psychology 28 (1992):25-34.

Publications by Hall

"The Contents of Children's Minds on Entering School." Pedagogical Seminary 1 (1891):139-173.

Adolescence: Its Psychology and Its Relations to Physiology, Anthropology, Sociology, Sex, Crime, Religion, and Education. New York: Appleton, 1904.

Senescence, the Last Half of the Life. New York: Appleton, 1922.

Hideo Kojima

Additional topics

Social Issues ReferenceChild Development Reference - Vol 4