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Irvin L. Child, Emeritus Professor of Psychology, Yale University, died October 27, 2000, in Arlington, Massachusetts. He had moved to Massachusetts in 1998, following the death of his wife, Alice B. Child.

Born in New Mexico in 1915, he was raised mainly in El Paso, Texas, and Los Angeles, California. Following undergraduate studies in philosophy and psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles, he earned his PhD in psychology at Yale (1939) and moved to Cambridge, where he taught for 2 years in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University. He then spent a year in Costa Rica with Alice, who was carrying out field work there in conjunction with her own graduate studies in anthropology. In 1942 he returned to Yale, where he taught continuously until his retirement in 1985, serving at various times as department chair and director of both undergraduate and graduate studies.

Professor Child's research career was long, varied, and distinguished. He was author of over a hundred papers and nine books, spanning three main areas of lifelong interest. His early work focused primarily on processes of development and change in human personality and led him quickly beyond then-current views that sought to interpret behavior largely or exclusively in terms of relatively simplistic concepts of "nature" (e.g., Sheldon's somatotypes) versus "nurture" (e.g., Hullian-type learning theory). In contrast, his own work consistently emphasized the influence of cultural context; probably the best-known of his efforts in this area is the classic 1953 book coauthored with his brother-in-law, Harvard anthropologist John Whiting, called Child Training and Personality: A Cross-Cultural Study. In this and many related publications, Child and his collaborators were able to demonstrate that various general features of culturally homogeneous groups, such as the themes that appear in their folktales, their us e of alcohol, and characteristic forms of antisocial behavior, could be predicted from their child-rearing practices. In recognition of his many contributions to this area, he was elected president of the Division on Developmental Psychology, American Psychological Association (APA), in 1956-1957, and became a fellow at the Center for Advanced Studies in Palo Alto, California, in 1958 and 1959.

In the 1960s he began publishing extensive new research on the sources of aesthetic judgment, including its dependence on factors such as training, age, personality characteristics, and cultural background. His interests in aesthetics were not only professional but personal, as he had already demonstrated considerable talent as an amateur potter, painter, and photographer. His many research contributions to this area of study resulted in his being elected president of APA's Division on Psychology and the Arts in 1966-1967 and president of the International Association for Empirical Aesthetics from 1971 to 1973.

Professor Child's third major area of interest was of course parapsychology. He had long been aware, through his work with Alice and other anthropologists, that the cross-cultural literature is replete with anecdotal evidence of psi events, but in the course of developing a chapter on extrasensory perception for his fine 1973 book Humanistic Psychology and the Research Tradition, he began reading extensively in the experimental literature of the field of parapsychology. It was he who discovered in 1972 the exceptional subject Bill Delmore, then a first-year student at Yale Law School, and encouraged him to participate in experimental work at the Institute for Parapsychology. Professor Child himself subsequently spent a sabbatical year at the Institute and participated both there and elsewhere in numerous experimental studies, serving variously as subject, experimenter, or scientific observer/commentator. He was not an especially psi-conducive experimenter, and in later years he turned increasingly to histori cal, methodological, and statistical issues in psi research and to attempts to encourage rapprochement between parapsychology and the rest of psychology. He was president of the Parapsychological Association in 1981 and was a long-standing trustee of the American Society for Psychical Research. His last book, Religion and Magic in the Life of Traditional Peoples (1993), was coauthored with Alice and brought together their respective skills and interests in anthropology, psychology, and parapsychology.

Those are the bare facts of Irv Child's academic biography, but in closing I should like to say something more personal about him. To me he epitomized the concept of the gentleman scholar. He was a person who exemplified in rare degree an openness to new ideas, coupled with relentless scientific rigor and objectivity. He was also unfailingly civil, solicitous of the well-being of others, self-effacing, and modest, wearing his many professional accomplishments so lightly that most people who met him probably had little idea of how truly distinguished a person he was. He was my teacher, colleague, and friend, and I miss him sorely.
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Title Annotation:Yale psychology professor
Publication:The Journal of Parapsychology
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2001

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