chapter  5
11 Pages

The Nature-Nurture Controversy in Social and Historical Perspective

WithFrances Degen Horowitz

The nature-nurture debate took root and flourished in African American context. It was watered and fertilized by the formalization of psychology and child development, by the growing availability of measurement tools, and by social pressures to absorb and educate large numbers of immigrants. The discussion of nature-nurture issues in the 1920s and 1930s was driven, in part, by contradictory social forces. A. Anastasi published a paper in which she noted that the nature-nurture issue was considered then, by most psychologists, to be a dead issue; heredity and environmental factors were said to "enter into all behavior." In 1948 Anastasi and J. P. Foley thus called for a reorientation of the heredity-environment controversy. Teachers and parents and social workers needed help and guidance and looked, increasingly, to die emerging field of applied social science for information relevant to the problems they faced in rearing, educating and treating children.