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About the Institute

History and scope

One of the oldest centers for the study of children's development in the United States, the Institute was organized in 1925 with the aid of funds from the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial in New York. Founded in the belief that the scientific study of child development was essential to the promotion of child welfare, the unit was established as an integral part of the University of Minnesota. Originally administered through the office of academic administration, the Institute has been a unit of the College of Education and Human Development since 1957.

photo of researchers in child development measuring the height of a child (circa 1926)Developmental psychology is the cognate field underlying most of the Institute's activities. Strong interest has been expressed in "theoretical integration" during recent years. Such integration is evidenced in formal seminars, collaborative studies, and broad theoretical restructurings but also by increasingly integrative attacks on specific research problems. Thus, some current explorations include the linkages between biological or neurological aspects of emotional expression, cognitive activity and social behavior, language and cognition, cognitive and affective problems, and perception and experience. Evolutionary perspectives on both intellectual and social behavior have made a significant impact on contemporary work throughout the Institute.

photo of children playing at the Institute of Child Development (circa 1940's)The instructional program in developmental psychology dates from 1925-1926 when the first courses, both undergraduate and graduate, were offered by John E. Anderson and Florence L. Goodenough. The first Ph.D. degrees were awarded in 1928 to Dorothea McCarthy and Esther McGinnis. By 2012, more than 425 doctorates had been earned in child psychology, more than two-thirds completed since 1973.

Early childhood education has been linked to the efforts of the Institute since its beginning. The Shirley G. Moore Laboratory School, widely known as a research laboratory and a center for the training of early childhood educators, has been in operation since October 1925. Professor Moore was director of the school from 1960-1973 and it was named in her honor at the time of her retirement in June 1987.

Mission statement