Fitzhugh Dodson

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Fitzhugh J. Dodson
BornOctober 28, 1923[1]
DiedMay 2, 1993[1]
Occupation(s)Clinical psychologist, lecturer, educator, author
Notable workHow to parent (1971)

Fitzhugh J. Dodson (October 28, 1923, Baltimore, Maryland – May 2, 1993, Long Beach, California[2]) was an American clinical psychologist, lecturer and educator.[3] He wrote several popular books including the best-selling How to Parent.[4]


Dodson was born in Baltimore, Maryland, United States in 1923.[5] His father also bore the name Fitzhugh J. Dodson (born c. 1886 in Virginia[6]) and his mother was Lillian M. Dodson, née Northam (born c. 1890 in Maryland[7]). He attended high school in Baltimore,[8] living at 704 Wyndhurst Avenue with his parents, younger sister and maternal grandparents.[7] He went on to graduate cum laude with a bachelor's degree from Johns Hopkins University[2] in 1944,[5] then gained his Bachelor of Divinity degree magna cum laude from Yale University in 1948[2] and his PhD was conferred by the University of Southern California[9][10] in 1957.[2] He went on to become a member of over ten scholarly associations.[3]

During his student years he was editor of a newspaper, president of the freshman class, senior member of the student council, business manager of the debating council and a member of Beta Theta Pi, Phi Beta Kappa, Pi Delta Epsilon and Omicron Delta Kappa.[11] He had summer pastorates in Tennessee, West Virginia and southern Oregon.[11]

He was ordained as a Presbyterian minister in 1948,[1] and on November 6, 1949, he was installed as pastor of the Palatine Hill Presbyterian Church in Portland, Oregon[12] and he also taught religion at the nearby Lewis and Clark College.,[11][13] then from 1957 to 1958 he was director of counseling centers in Portland and Los Angeles.[1]

He married Grace Goheen, a preschool director, on August 1, 1958,[1] and in 1959 he joined the staff of El Camino College in Torrance, California, to teach philosophy;[10] then from 1962 taught in the Psychology Department of California State University, Long Beach.[14] He also taught at UCLA Extension.[15]

He was senior psychological consultant to Project Head Start in Long Beach Unified School District.[15]

He founded the internationally famous La Primera pre-school in Walteria, Torrance, California.[15] Building started in May 1963; the school was designed for children aged three to five and also for the training of pre-school teachers; his wife became director of the school and Dodson himself had the role of consultant.[16]

He went on to work as a clinical psychologist in private practice in Redondo Beach[15] for more than 25 years,[2] treating children, adolescents and adults by both individual and group psychotherapy and also educating parents and undertaking marriage counselling.[17] He wrote a number of books, including the best-selling How to parent and How to father,[4] both of which were translated into a number of languages.[18][19] He married his second wife, Cecelia Kovacs, on January 26, 1974.[1]

Dodson died of heart failure at the age of 69 on May 2, 1993, at the Alamitos Belmont Rehabilitation Hospital in Long Beach, California.[4] His survivors included three children from his first marriage, Robin Ellyn, Randall James and Rustin Fitzhugh.[2]


Dodson taught that children need both love and discipline, and this was seen as a contradiction to the permissive approach attributed to Dr. Benjamin Spock.[2] He stated, "Many parents also have the impression that modern psychology teaches that you should not spank children. Some psychologists and psychiatrists have actually stated this idea in print. However, as a psychologist, I believe it is impossible to raise children effectively—particularly aggressive, forceful boys—without spanking them."[9]

He continued, "This does not mean that any kind of spanking is all right for a child. I want to make it clear that there is a "right" kind of spanking and a "wrong" kind. By the wrong kind I mean a cruel and sadistic beating. This fills a child with hatred, and a deep desire for revenge. This is the kind that is administered with a strap or stick or some other type of parental "weapon." Or it could also mean a humiliating slap in the face. The right kind of spanking needs no special paraphernalia. Just the hand of the parent administered a few times on the kid's bottom. The right kind of spanking is a positive thing. It clears the air, and is vastly preferable to moralistic and guilt-inducing parental lectures."[20]

Alongside this teaching, he strongly emphasised the importance of a strong, loving family structure, and favoured three-generation extended families; he taught that society should train people in parenting and grandparenting skills, suggesting that parenting should be taught in high schools, and that evening classes should also be available.[8]


His published works include:


  • Dodson, Fitzhugh (1971). How to parent. Signet Book. ISBN 978-0352300126. (also translated into German, French, Dutch, Hebrew, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese,[15] Arabic, Chinese, Korean, Thai and Turkish[18])
  • Dodson, Fitzhugh (1975). How to father. Penguin. ISBN 978-0451154361. (also translated into Turkish, French, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Persian, Italian and German[19])
  • Dodson, Fitzhugh (1976). The you that could be. Follett Pub Co. ISBN 978-0695806064.
  • Dodson, Fitzhugh (1978). How to discipline with love: From crib to college. Penguin. ISBN 978-0892560233.
  • Dodson, Fitzhugh (1978). I Wish I Had a Computer That Makes Waffles: Teaching Your Child With Modern Nursery Rhymes. Oak Tree Pubns. ISBN 978-0866790062.
  • Dodson, Fitzhugh (1979). The carnival kidnap caper. Oak Tree Pubns. ISBN 978-0916392406.
  • Dodson, Fitzhugh (1981). Give Your Child a Head Start in Reading. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 978-0671436414.
  • Dodson, Fitzhugh; Reuben, Paula (1984). How to grandparent. New American Library. ISBN 978-0690018745.
  • Dodson, Fitzhugh; Alexander, Ann (1986). Your child: Birth to age 6. Fireside. ISBN 978-0671458942.
  • Dodson, Fitzhugh (1988). How to single parent. Gallery Books. ISBN 978-0060914875.

Other works[edit]

  • Dodson, Fitzhugh James (1957), Personality Factors in the Choice of the Protestant Ministry as a Vocation (PhD thesis)
  • Dodson, Fitzhugh; Harris, Jeanne (1976). "How to Father". American Journal of Nursing. 76 (1): 79. doi:10.1097/00000446-197601000-00042.


Dodson's memberships included:[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Fitzhugh (James) Dodson". Gale Literature: Contemporary Authors. 2003. Retrieved 2020-09-11.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "Fitzhugh Dodson, 69, Child-Rearing Expert". The New York Times. Retrieved 2015-02-01.
  3. ^ a b "Books from Dr Fitzhugh Dodson — Colibri Publishers". Retrieved 2015-02-01.
  4. ^ a b c Myrna Oliver (7 May 1993). "Fitzhugh Dodson; Wrote Parental Advice Books - Los Angeles Times". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2015-02-01.
  5. ^ a b "NARA - AAD - Display Full Records - 1954 National Register of Scientific and Technical Personnel, 1954 - 1954 (American Psychological Association)". Retrieved 2015-02-01.
  6. ^ "Fitzhugh J Dodson in the 1940 Census". Retrieved 2015-02-01.
  7. ^ a b "Lillian M Dodson in the 1940 Census". Retrieved 2015-02-01.
  8. ^ a b ERIC ED232119: Old and Young: Generations at the Crossroads. Hearing before the Select Committee on Aging. House of Representatives, Ninety-Seventh Congress, Second Session. (September 8, 1982). 1982-09-08. Retrieved 2015-02-01 – via
  9. ^ a b Carl Sommer (15 April 2009). "Schools In Crisis: Training for Success or Failure?" (PDF). Retrieved 2015-02-01.
  10. ^ a b "Four New Instructors Are Added to Staff of El Camino College" (PDF). Torrance Press. 24 September 1959. Retrieved 2015-02-01.
  11. ^ a b c "New Pastor Gives Sunday Sermon; Aids Youth Work". Pioneer Log: 3. 30 September 1949. Retrieved 2015-02-01.
  12. ^ "The Pioneer Log: Lewis & Clark College's Student-Run Newspaper· Lewis & Clark Digital Collections". Pioneer Log. VIII (6): 4. November 4, 1949. Retrieved 2016-12-21.
  13. ^ Bruce C. McFarland, ed. (1950). "'50 Voyageur" (PDF). The Associated Students of Lewis and Clark College, Portland, Oregon. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-09-09. Retrieved 2016-12-21.
  14. ^ "Psychology » Department-Faculty-History". Retrieved 2015-02-01.
  15. ^ a b c d e "Dr. Dodson speaker at workshop". The Bakersfield Californian: 31. April 3, 1975. Retrieved 2015-02-02.
  16. ^ "La Prima Pre-School Has Groundbreaking in Walleria" (PDF). Torrance Press: 3. May 19, 1963. Retrieved 2015-02-02.
  17. ^ "Fitzhugh Dodson - Livres, citations, photos et vidéos". Retrieved 2015-02-01.
  18. ^ a b "313819281 Dodson, Fitzhugh. | How to parent". Retrieved 2017-08-21.
  19. ^ a b "312348461 Dodson, Fitzhugh. | How to father". Retrieved 2017-08-21.
  20. ^ "Spanking: This Doctor Says There is a Right Way—And a Wrong Way". The Sunday News and Tribune: 51. October 21, 1973. Retrieved 2015-02-02.