Celebrating Women in the History of Psychology
Women have contributed substantially to psychology throughout the history of the science. In celebration of Women’s History Month, Argosy University, Online Programs is showcasing five extraordinary women who have helped to shape the development of the field.
Anna Freud (1895-1982), daughter of the famous Sigmund Freud, made an enduring contribution to the field of child psychology and development. Considered the founder of child psychoanalysis, Anna spent a great deal of time working with and observing children. Unlike many theorists, she believed that human development was continuous through life with progression and regression. She believed that both nature and nurture mattered, and that normal development could provide a frame of reference for many psychological disorders (Mayes & Cohen, 1996).
Karen Horney (1885-1952) is known for her work in feminine psychology and the role of culture in human development. Horney rejected many of Sigmund Freud’s widely embraced theories, believing that they were male-dominated. She believed that a child’s perceptions of events, rather than the actual events themselves or the actions of parents, mattered more in development. Horney also believed that social and cultural experiences played a large part in shaping personality (Hitchcock, 2005).
Mary Ainsworth (1913-1999) is also known for her work on child development, particularly attachment theory, which is based upon the premise that children who establish secured bonds with their caretakers develop into healthier adults. Ainsworth was influenced and worked alongside John Bowlby, providing substantial observational data to his theories. She was also influential for her work on the environmental role on the development of personalities (Ainsworth & Bowlby, 1991).
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross (1926-2004) was a Swiss-American psychiatrist who worked in the field of thanatology (the study of death and dying). Kübler-Ross was extremely influential in the study of grief and how people coped with death. In 1969, she published a book describing five stages experienced by people who were terminally ill: shock, anger, bargaining, grief and acceptance (Worth, 2005).
Lorna Wing (1928-) is an English psychiatrist who has been a pioneer in the study of autism spectrum disorders (ASD), coining the term “Asperger’s Syndrome” to describe higher-functioning autistic children. ASD is a range of neurodevelopmental disorders that are characterized by social impairments and stereotypical and repetitive speech and behavior. Wing developed the concept of an autism spectrum and introduced Austrian psychiatrist Hans Asperger’s work to the English-speaking world (Feinstein, 2010).
- Ainsworth, M. D., & Bowlby, J. (1991). An Ethological Approach to Personality Development. American Psychologist, 46, 333-341.
- Feinstein, A. (2010). A History of Autism: Conversations with the Pioneers. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.
- Hitchcock, S. T. (2005). Karen Horney: Pioneer of Feminine Psychology. Philadelphia, PA: Chelsea House Publishers.
- Mayes, L., & Cohen, D. (1996). Anna Freud and developmental psychoanalytic psychology. Psychoanalytic Study of Children, 41, 117-41.
- Worth, R. (2005). Elisabeth Kübler-Ross: Encountering Death and Dying. Philadelphia, PA: Chelsea House Publishers.