Noted for: Research in child development and family dynamics; the first comprehensive empirical survey of gender differences.
Although she spent the majority of her academic career as a faculty member in the Department of Psychology at Stanford University, Eleanor Maccoby’s interest in child development began while she was a researcher and instructor at Harvard.
In 1950 Maccoby received her PhD from the University of Michigan, for work she did on learning in B.F. Skinner’s lab at Harvard. After completing her degree, Maccoby stayed on to teach in Harvard’s Department of Social Relations.
The department’s interdisciplinary spirit supported novel perspectives that led Maccoby in new directions. In the mid 1950’s she directed the field research team of a large-scale study of child rearing. Drawing on this work, in 1957 Maccoby co-authored Patterns of Child-Rearing, an early and influential examination of the parent-child relationship.
In her final year at Harvard Maccoby taught child psychology and child development. "I had never studied child psychology and I sweated to pull together those courses. I underwent an ideological change in the course of studying Piaget and other child development literature. I was ready for the cognitive revolution that occurred in the 1950s" (APA-WIST, 2007). Her later book with Carolyn Jacklin, The Psychology of Sex Differences, was the first large-scale review of the literature on gender differences, which established that some such differences are universal, whereas many others vary from culture to culture. It continues to be heavily cited today.
Eleanor Maccoby is listed as number 70 on the American Psychological Association’s list of the 100 most eminent psychologists of the 20th century.
APA-Women in Technology and Science (WIST). Career development Profile: Eleanor Maccoby, PhD, Professor Emeritus, Stanford University. Retrieved on December 2, 2007 from http://www.apa.org/science/wist/maccoby.html
Eminent psychologists of the 20th century. (July/August, 2002). Monitor on Psychology, 33(7), p.29.