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Kenneth Kaye (born January 24, 1946) is an American psychologist, writer, and business consultant whose research, books, and articles connect the fields of human development, family relationships and conflict resolution.
Although spanning several professional disciplines, the substantial body of Kaye’s work is characterized by family systems theory and by a search for observable, reproducible processes rather than stopping at generalizations about formal properties, for example, of stages in mental or social development.
Kaye was educated at Harvard University (A.B. in English and American Literature, 1966; Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology and Education, 1970). Following a Visiting Fellowship at Kings College, Cambridge (UK), he taught at the University of Washington (1970–71) and the University of Chicago (Department of Education and Committee on Human Development, 1971–81). From 1982 to 2007 he was an Adjunct Faculty member in the Department of Psychiatry, Northwestern University Medical School.
Research and principal publications
Early human development
Beginning with his doctoral dissertation and continuing through the University of Chicago years, 22 of Kaye's published articles addressed the fundamental question, What gives homo sapiens, uniquely among all other creatures, the ability to learn through imitation, language, and consciousness of a reflecting self? His principal mentors were the social-cognitive psychologist Jerome S. Bruner, British ethologist M.P.M. Richards, and pediatrician T. Berry Brazelton. Elaborated most fully in his book The Mental and Social Life of Babies: How Parents Create Persons, Kaye theorized and demonstrated that those distinguishing psychological powers, rather than developing intrinsically from innate capacities of the human infant biologically reorganizing themselves (Piaget), are shaped gradually by interactions due to the co-evolution of infant behavior and human adult behavior. Specifically, he traced the development of turn-taking beginning with instinctive maternal responses to physiological/neurological bursts and pauses in neonatal activity, through transactions in which adults adjust to babies' perceived (projected) intentions, to true dialogue which makes symbolic language possible.
The Mental and Social Life of Babies received highly positive reviews, and appeared in Italian, Spanish, Japanese, and German editions before going out of print in the U.S. Kaye's innovative microanalytic studies of parent-infant interaction in the 1970s have been discussed continuously to the present in hundreds of scholarly papers and books on diverse psychological topics.
The IQ controversy
In the mid-1970s, he published 6 articles and book reviews on the controversy triggered by Arthur Jensen's famous Harvard Educational Review article on the heritability of IQ. Kaye's message: "Educational revolution will not come until after educational psychology makes a paradigm shift. Psychology has sold society a dogmatic set of assumptions that preclude beliefs in the educability of children, the potential of curriculum, and the accountability of schools."
The science of human behavior
Mainly growing out of his research methods in the work on infancy, 6 publications dealt with methodological rigor and interpretive issues in the science of human behavior.
Family therapy and parenting
Beginning in 1981, Kaye passed the Illinois state exam for licensing as a Clinical Psychologist, and got advanced training in family therapy from Family Institute of Chicago, where he served on the faculty for several years. His private practice received a boost in 1984 from his book Family Rules: Raising Responsible Children, widely recommended by other therapists and reprinted in a mass market edition by St. Martin’s Press. Family Rules remained in print for 10 years; he published an updated edition in 2005.
Family business systems and conflict resolution
In 1986, Kaye began to specialize his practice in consulting to families who were in business together. He was among the first psychologists to do so, phasing out his general clinical practice by the mid-1990s. By 2009, his published articles in this field equalled in number those in his earlier, academic career. Kenneth Kaye's books in this field are Workplace Wars: Turning Personal Conflict to Productive Teamwork (1994) and The Dynamics of Family Business (2005). In 2009, he published Trust Me: Helping Our Young Adults Financially, bridging his family therapy and family business consulting experience.
- International Review of Psychoanalysis 1983, 10:482-484
- International Journal of Social Psychiatry, Vol. 32, No. 1, 70-71 (1986)
- New York Review of Books 27 October 1983
- M. Perlmutter, Parent-child Interaction and Parent-child Relations in Child Development, Lawrence Erlbaum, 1984
- D. Stern, The Interpersonal World of the Infant, Basic Books, 2000
- T. Power, Play and Exploration in Children and Animals, Lawrence Erlbaum, 2000
- C. Moore, The Development of Commonsense Psychology, Routledge, 2006
- C. Raeff Always Separate, Always Connected, Routledge, 2006
- V. Reddy, How Infants Know Minds, Harvard University Press, 2008