Eleanor Maccoby

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Eleanor Emmons Maccoby
Born (1917-05-15) May 15, 1917 (age 100)
Tacoma, Washington, United States

PhD, University of Michigan, (1950) MA, University of Michigan, (1949)

BA, University of Washington, (1939)

Stanford University, (1958!present)

Harvard University, (1950–1957)

Eleanor Emmons Maccoby (born May 15, 1917, in Tacoma, Washington) is an American psychologist who is most recognized for her research and scholarly contributions to the field of child and family psychology. Throughout her career she studied developmental psychology, specifically, sex differences, gender development, gender differentiation, parent-child relations, child development, and social development from the child perspective.

Maccoby earned her M.A and Ph.D. from the University of Michigan where she worked under B.F Skinner. She also did her dissertation research in Skinner's Harvard laboratory. Maccoby continued her psychology career at Stanford University, where she served as a professor, member and chair of the department of psychology and conducted various research. Her research resulted in multiple publications with her most recognized publication being her book, The Development of Sex Differences (1966). Maccoby has received numerous awards for her work; however, in 2000 Maccoby was named the first-ever recipient of an award named in her honor, which was The Maccoby Award. The American Psychological Association listed Eleanor Maccoby as number 70 out of 100 for the most eminent psychologists of the 20th century.


Maccoby was the second oldest of four siblings born to Eugene and Viva Emmons.[1] Maccoby’s mother was a singer/musician and her father locally owned a small business.[2]

Her family beliefs and way of life were unusual for that time period. They were vegetarians, interested in eastern thought and religious doctrines which included reincarnation, astrology, and occult phenomena. Maccoby spent her childhood in Tacoma, Washington till 1934 until she moved to Portland, Oregon, where she attended Reed College[2] for two years. After those first two years she moved to Seattle, Washington and attended Washington University, where she met her husband, Nathan Maccoby. They courted for one year then married in 1938.

In 1940, she followed her husband, Nathan Maccoby, to Washington, D.C., where he had a job at the US Civil Service Commission. They remained in Washington, D.C. till 1947 until they moved to Michigan.[2] Eleanor and Nathan adopted three children. Their first child, Janice Maccoby, was adopted in 1952. Four years later they adopted their second child, Sarah Maccoby, and soon after their third child, Mark Maccoby. Family life was important to Eleanor Maccoby so she worked part-time, postponing publishing anything for five to six years during this time[1] so she could spend more time with her children.[3]

In 1958, Eleanor and Nathan were offered jobs at Stanford University.[4] Nathan worked in the Communications Department and Eleanor worked in the Psychology Department teaching child psychology.[4] She considered herself a feminist, and at Stanford University she met Carol Nagy Jacklin, who also was involved in the feminist movement for front issues that were rising due to the Vietnam War.[4] Maccoby and Jacklin started to work on studies involving inequality between men and women. This led to research involving differences and similarities in boys and girls, which soon lead into what Maccoby became renowned for.[4]

In 1992, Eleanor’s husband, Nathan, died of a heart attack at the age of 80.[5] They were married for 54 years and had five grandchildren.[5] She turned 100 in May 2017.[6]

Educational and vocational history[edit]

After completing her secondary education, Maccoby attended Reed College for two years, where she was exposed to behaviorist psychology.[7] Maccoby then transferred to the University of Washington where she received her B.A. (1939).[7]

While attending the University of Washington she majored in Psychology and studied with Edwin Guthrie. While studying with Guthrie, Maccoby was intrigued by his contiguity-based stimulus-response learning theory.[7] She earned her M.A. from the University of Michigan in 1949. The end of the World War II led to vast advancements in medical research as well as a new understanding of the importance of mental health and developmental psychology. Eleanor E. Maccoby started her career in child development after World War II ended by working in Boston before completing her PhD at the University of Michigan.[8]

Maccoby was given the opportunity to work with B.F. Skinner. Maccoby had completed all the requirements for her PhD except the dissertation. B.F. Skinner offered to let Maccoby use his automated data recording equipment in his laboratory at Harvard University.[7] She then completed her dissertation research on an operant conditioning study involving pigeons. Within the following year, Maccoby was able to earn her PhD from the University of Michigan (1950).[citation needed]

Completing her dissertation at Harvard University opened many career and research opportunities for Maccoby. Maccoby served as a professor and researcher at Harvard University from 1950 to 1957. Maccoby's most known research while at Harvard University was a research study that resulted in the book, Patterns of Child-Rearing (Sears, Maccoby, & Levin, 1957). A coworker, Robert Sears was in the process of planning a study of socialization practices and their relation to personality development in young children and offered Maccoby to assist with the study.[7]

Maccoby took on the role of managing the portion of the study that involved interviewing the mothers concerning their child-rearing practices; many believe this is where she realized her interest in sex differences, parental responsibilities, and child development.[8] At Harvard, she taught child psychology and published her research in areas such as social behavior in infants and child-rearing. She conducted other research during her time at Harvard University, which include: a set of studies on selective attention to viewer-relevant content in films, a study of the impact of television on children's use of time, a study of the community control of juvenile delinquency, and a study of first time voters and the family dynamics that led young people adopting or not adopting their parents' voting preferences.[7] Maccoby also coedited the third edition of Readings in Social Psychology during her time at Harvard University.[citation needed]

In 1958, Maccoby and her husband were offered faculty positions at Stanford University. Her research has taken multiple different approaches throughout her career at Stanford University. In 1974, Maccoby and her colleague Jacklin published their research on sex differences in Maccoby's most well known book, The Psychology of Sex Differences. In 1980, Maccoby began a large-scale longitudinal study evaluating parent-child relationships before, during, and after parental divorce; since 1980, Maccoby has published her book, The Two Sexes, in 1998 and has continued working towards increasing the knowledge and understanding of child development and sex differences.[9] Maccoby is credited to having well over one hundred publications, making her one of the most influential child development/social psychologists.[9]

Other work Maccoby completed at Stanford University consisted of organizing a yearlong faculty seminar on sex differences and edited the book that emerged from this seminar (The Development of Sex Differences, Maccoby, 1966).[7] Maccoby also was involved in a Social Science Research Council that focused on socialization.[citation needed]

Maccoby was not exposed to much sexism throughout her life, besides the wage gap she experienced while working at Harvard. It was proven that though she researched and published hundred of articles and books, she was still one of the lowest-paid staff members and was not allowed the same rights to faculty resources, such as the Lamont Library or Faculty Club, as the male staff.[9] Maccoby actively considers herself a feminist.


Throughout her career, Maccoby was recognized for her work in psychology. She was elected president of Division 7 of the American Psychological Association from 1971-72.[10] From 1973 to 1976, she was the first woman to ever serve as chair of the Psychology Department at Stanford.[11]

During that time, she served as president of the Western Psychological Association from 1974-75. She then went on to be elected president of the Society for Research in Child Development from 1981 to 1983.[12] She won numerous prestigious awards.[13]

Award Year Status
Barbara Kimball Browning Professorship at Stanford University 1979 Won
Stanford University Walter J. Gores Award for Excellence in Teaching 1981 Won
G. Stanley Hall Award of APA's Division of Developmental Psychology 1982 Won
American Educational Research Association Award for Distinguished Contributions in Educational Research 1984 Won
Society for Research in Child Development Award for Distinguished Scientific Contributions in Educational Research 1987 Won
APA Distinguished Scientific Contributions Award 1988 Won
National Academy of Sciences 1993 Won
Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Psychology Foundation 1996 Won
APA's Eleanor Maccoby Book Award in Developmental Psychology 2000 Won

The Maccoby Award[edit]

The Eleanor Maccoby Book Award in Developmental Psychology, often shortened to The Maccoby Award, is given to an author whose book has had a profound effect on psychology and psychological research. The American Psychological Association, who coordinates the selection of the recipient of the award, looks for "promoting research in the field of developmental psychology; fostering the development of researchers through providing information about educational opportunities and recognizing outstanding contributions to the discipline; facilitating exchange of scientific information about developmental psychology through publications such as the division’s newsletter and through national and international meetings; and/or promoting high standards for the application of scientific knowledge on human development to public policy issues."

Nominees for this award must be the author of their profound book, not just the editor. The book must have been published within two years of the nomination and meet the requirements laid out by the American Psychological Association, as mentioned above. Though this award was named for Eleanor Maccoby, she was not the first recipient of it. The first winners were Harold Fishbein and Lois Bloom in 1996, followed by Jerome Bruner in 1998 and Gilbert Gottlieb in 1999. After these four profound authors were honored, Maccoby eventually won her self-titled award in 2000.[14]


  1. ^ a b Eleanor E. Maccoby. Association, American Psychological. 1989. pp. 621–623. 
  2. ^ a b c Routledge (1997). Biographical Dictionary of Psychology. London and New York: Noel Sheehy, Antony J. Chapman, Wendy A. Conroy. pp. 368–370. 
  3. ^ "Women in psychology: A bio bibliographic". New York. O'Connell, A. N. & Russo, N. F. Greenwood Press. 1990. 
  4. ^ a b c d "Profile of Eleanor Maccoby". Psychology's Feminist Voices Multimedia Internet Archive. Ball, Laura. 
  5. ^ a b "Stanford University News Release". Stanford University. Stanford, University. 
  6. ^ Staff (2017-05-04). "Today faculty and friends celebrated Eleanor Maccoby's 100th birthday at the Faculty Club". Stanford University. Retrieved 2017-05-31. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Gold Medal Award for Life Achievement in Psychological Science: Eleanor Emmons Maccoby. American Psychologist. 1996. pp. 757–759. 
  8. ^ a b Hilgard, E.R. "Which Psychologists Prominent in the Second Half of This Century Made Lasting Contributions to Psychological Theory?". Psychological Science. 
  9. ^ a b c "In Honor of Eleanor Maccoby". FABBS Foundation. FABBS Foundation. 
  10. ^ "In Honor of Eleanor Maccoby". FABBS Foundation. Federation of Associations in Behavioral & Brain Sciences. Retrieved April 28, 2016. 
  11. ^ "Profile of Eleanor Maccoby". Psychology's Feminist Voices Multimedia Internet Archive. Ball, Laura. 
  12. ^ "In Honor of Eleanor Maccoby". FABBS Foundation. Federation of Associations in Behavioral & Brain Sciences. Retrieved April 28, 2016. 
  13. ^ "Eleanor Emmons Maccoby". Women's Intellectual Contributions to the Study of Mind and Society. Webster University. Retrieved April 28, 2016. 
  14. ^ "Eleanor Maccoby Book Award in Developmental Psychology". APA Divisions: Developmental Psychology. American Psychological Association. Retrieved April 28, 2016.