Chess, Stella 1914-2007

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Chess, Stella 1914-2007


See index for CA sketch: Born March 1, 1914, in New York, NY; died of pneumonia, March 14, 2007, in New York, NY. Psychiatrist, educator, and author. Chess was a child psychologist who is best remembered for her theories about childhood temperament and the effects of conflicting childparent temperaments. Completing undergraduate work at Smith College in 1935, she earned her M.D. from New York University in 1939. After her internship and residency, she set up a private practice in New York City in 1942. She quickly began to focus on child psychiatry, serving as a resident at the Riverdale Children's Association and as a psychiatrist at the Northside Center for Child Development, becoming chief coordinating psychiatrist at the latter through most of the 1950s. She directed the child psychiatry clinic at Metropolitan Hospital during the early 1960s. By the 1950s, she and her psychiatrist husband, Alexander Thomas, were conducting research on human development that would lead to their theories about childhood temperaments. They came to believe that temperament was inherent, and that children typically fell into one of three categories: difficult, easy, or slow to warm up. Furthermore, if a child's temperament was not compatible with its parents—especially the mother—this could lead to psychological distress in the infant. Their early findings were published in 1960; later research indicated that temperaments could evolve over time and were not necessarily fixed, however. In addition to her active practice, Chess taught at the New York Medical College from 1949 until 1966. She then joined the New York University faculty in 1966, becoming a full professor in 1970 and directing child and adolescent psychiatric services. Chess continued to teach there even after she turned ninety. In addition to her An Introduction to Child Psychiatry (1959; 2nd edition, 1969), she was coauthor of such books as Your Child Is a Person: A Psychological Approach to Parenthood without Guilt (1965), Temperament and Development (1977), Know Your Child: An Authoritative Guide for Today's Parents (1987), and Goodness of Fit: Clinical Applications from Infancy through Adult Life (1999).



New York Times, March 22, 2007, p. A23.