Prof. Jerome Kagan, a Harvard psychologist whose analysis into temperament discovered that shy infants typically develop as much as be concerned and fearful adults due to their organic nature in addition to the way in which they had been nurtured, died on May 10 in Chapel Hill, N.C. He was 92.
Jane Kagan, his daughter, mentioned 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., outdoors Boston.
Prof. Daniel Gilbert, one other Harvard psychologist and writer, described Professor Kagan in an electronic 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 extensively praised “The Nature of the Child” (1984), that some youngsters had been genetically wired to fret and that they proved to be extra resilient than anticipated as they handed from one stage of maturity to a different. He additionally contended that the specifics of parenting had been typically not as essential to a toddler’s future as dad and mom assume, though the kid’s pure predisposition to be shy or exuberant may very well be altered by expertise.
His conclusions that some youngsters could also be born predisposed to a specific temperament could have come as some aid to the various dad and mom of child boomers who had rigidly adopted the nurturing recommendation of Dr. Benjamin Spock however nonetheless raised a technology of rebellious youngsters within the 1960s.
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 four months to varied 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 had been subdued, shy and hovered round their moms or who fussed, thrashed round and cried — about 15 % of the entire — tended to grow to be anxious, inhibited adults. Another 15 % who had been ebullient as infants and embraced each new toy and interviewer tended to grow to be fearless youngsters and adolescents.
Professor Kagan acknowledged that as an ideological liberal he had initially believed that each one people had 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 academic remedial programs were valuable as a result of, aside from the tiny quantity with acute mind injury, a overwhelming majority of youngsters, no matter race or class, had the power to grasp the mental abilities that colleges require so long as the scholars had been instilled with confidence that they may succeed.
Professor Kagan reassured women who labored outdoors the house that infants in day care barely differed from those that had 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 (Liebermann) 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, dad and mom 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 instructed 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 check by Prof. Frank A. Beach, a distinguished psychologist.
He taught briefly at Ohio State, was drafted into the Army and performed analysis on the navy 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 baby growth, “Birth to Maturity” (1962).
He accepted a suggestion 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, Jane, 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 baby 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 Gilbert, of Harvard, mentioned. “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.”