G. Stanley Hall

Granville Stanley Hall is commonly known as the father of American developmental psychology, and his contributions in the developmental field and in psychology in general are numerous and invaluable. Born in Ashfield, Massachusetts, Hall grew up on a farm and was initially intending to become a minister. He graduated from Williams College and studied theology at the Union Theological Seminary. Religion, morale, and Jesus later became topics of his books. Hall studied under William James at Harvard, and in 1878 was the first person who ever obtained a PhD in psychology in the United States. After finishing his PhD at the age of 34, Hall followed his dream to go to Germany and study psychology with Wilhelm Wundt in Leipzig (1878–1880). Coming back to the United States, Hall was a lecturer at Harvard and later accepted a position at Johns Hopkins University in 1882, as lecturer and later professor of psychology and pedagogy. Hall followed Wundt’s methodology and opened a psychological laboratory at Johns Hopkins University. Advancing the scientific study of psychological phenomena, Hall adopted the experimental method in his laboratory using surveys, controlled observation of children and their families, and fostering the development and application of scientific tests. When Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, opened in 1889, Hall transferred to Clark and became its first president. In 1909, Hall organized a conference that was attended by Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. Hall devoted his life’s work to understanding the process of development and stayed at Clark University until his death in 1924.

It’s no exaggeration to state that Hall is the father of American developmental psychology. Particularly, Hall focused on the study of children, development, and education in his pioneering studies “Adolescence” (1904) and “Educational Problems” (1911). He also founded the Child Study Association of America in 1888. Some people see Hall not only as the founder of American developmental psychology but also as the father of scientific American psychology. Impressively, by 1898, Hall had supervised 30 of 54 U.S. PhDs in psychology. He mentored graduate students and founded the first psychological journal in the United States, the American Journal of Psychology in 1887. As his passion was great and his vision steadfast, he had also started other journals, such as the Journal of Genetic Psychology in 1891, the Journal of Religious Psychology in 1904, and the Journal of Applied Psychology in 1915. A lifetime achievement in and of itself, Hall was instrumental in forming the American Psychological Association. He became the organization’s first president in 1892 and was re-elected shortly before his death in 1924.

Hall’s (1904) research interests focused on education, child development, and evolutionary theory, topics that are still relevant and at the heart of development to this day. His theory was influenced by Darwin’s evolutionary theory and is based on the assumption that ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny. He viewed human development as a recapitulation of the biological and cultural history of humankind. According to Hall, the child repeats cultural evolution in his or her play. Hall developed a stage model of development and argued that before the age of 8, a child ought to be free in expressing his or her spirits, and only after the age of 8 should formal learning occur. He had also proposed that it is later in adolescence that the child becomes ready to deal with moral issues and service for others. According to Hall, the curriculum should follow the needs and interests of children in their specific stages. Besides his main interests in development and education, Hall had other interests and efforts in gender differences, racial issues, emotions, hypnosis, basic psychological processes, and social and industrial psychology, to name a few. He has left his indelible mark in the fields of psychology and developmental psychology, and people during his lifetime and still today are impressed, indebted, and grateful to him.


  1. Goodchild, F. (1996). G. Stanley Hall and the study of higher education. Review of Higher Education, 20, 69–99.
  2. Grezlik, A. G. (1999). G. Stanley Hall. Retrieved from http://fcns.muskingum.edu/~psych/psycweb/history/hall.htm
  3. Hall, Stanley. (1904). Adolescence: Its psychology and its relations to physiology, anthropology, sociology, sex, crime, religion, and education (Vols. 1 & 2). New York: Appleton.
  4. Hall, Stanley. (1906). Youth: Its education, regiment, and hygiene. New York: Appleton.
  5. Hall, Stanley. (1911). Educational problems (Vols. 1 & 2). New York: Appleton.
  6. Hall, Stanley. (1917). Jesus, the Christ, in the light of psychology (Vols. 1 & 2). Garden City, NY: Doubleday.
  7. Hall, G. Stanley. (1920). Morale: The supreme standard of life and New York: Appleton.
  8. Hall, Stanley. (1923). Senescence: The last half of life. New York: Appleton.
  9. Hall, G.  Stanley.  (1923).  The  life  and  confessions  of  a psychologist. New York: