Jerome Kagan

Jerome Kagan

Jerome Kagan (born 1929) is one of the key pioneers of developmental psychology. Daniel and Amy Starch Research Professor of Psychology, Emeritus at Harvard University, he has shown that an infant's "temperament" is quite stable over time, in that certain behaviors in infancy are predictive of certain other behavior patterns in adolescence.

In an empirical study by Haggbloom et al using six criteria such as citations and recognition, Kagan was found to be the 22nd most eminent psychologist of the 20th Century, just above Carl Jung. [Haggbloom, S.J. et al. (2002). The 100 Most Eminent Psychologists of the 20th Century. "Review of General Psychology". Vol. 6, No. 2, 139–15. Haggbloom et al combined 3 quantitative variables: citations in professional journals, citations in textbooks, and nominations in a survey given to members of the Association for Psychological Science, with 3 qualitative variables (converted to quantitative scores): National Academy of Science (NAS) membership, American Psychological Association (APA) President and/or recipient of the APA Distinguished Scientific Contributions Award, and surname used as an eponym. Then the list was rank ordered.]

Personal background

Kagan was born in Newark, New Jersey, USA. He earned a B.S. degree from Rutgers University in 1950. In 1951 he married Cele Katzman, and they have one daughter. Kagan earned his master's degree from Harvard University and his Ph.D. from Yale University in 1954. He spent a year as an instructor in psychology at Ohio State University. After two years as a psychologist at the U.S. Army Hospital at West Point, he did research in developmental psychology at Ohio's Fels Institute (1957-64) before beginning his career at Harvard University.

Research and publications

He is the author of "Personal Development" (1971), "Growth of the Child" (1978), and "The Nature of the Child" (1982).

On the Need for Relativism. "American Psychologist", 1967, 22, 131-142.


According to Kagan, (conventionally):

"temperament" refers to stable behavioral and emotional reactions that appear early and are influenced in part by genetic constitution." [Kagan, J: "Galen's Prophecy: Temperament in Human Nature.", page 40. Westview Press, 1994.]
Kagan rejects "attachment theory", British psychiatrist John Bowlby's notion that the bond between caregiver and infant is crucially influential in later emotional and even intellectual growth. He has also criticized Judith Rich Harris's theory that peer groups matter more than parents in influencing the personality of children. He believes that both sides in the nature/nuture debates were too rigid, and that the development of personality is still not well understood.


Kagan won the Hofheimer Prize of the American Psychiatric Association in 1963. He won the G. Stanley Hall Award of the American Psychological Association (APA) in 1994.


External links

* [ Kagan's Harvard University Web Page (no longer available)]
* [ Kagan's NECSI Web Page (with a photo of him) ]
* [ The Ideas of Jerome Kagan] A link to the CBC Radio One "Ideas" Show
* [ Interview with Jerome Kagan (CBC Radio One "Ideas" Podcast, (no longer available))]

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