Neugarten, Bernice

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NEUGARTEN, BERNICE (1916–2001), U.S. psychologist and leader in the fields of human development and aging. Neugarten was born in Norfolk, Nebraska, to Lithuania-born David Levin and his wife, Sadie. She spent her educational and academic careers at the University of Chicago, obtaining her B.A. (English and French) and M.A. (Educational Psychology), before receiving the first doctorate from the innovative interdisciplinary program, the Committee on Human Development, in 1943. She became chair of the Committee in 1969. In 1980 she started a doctoral program in Human Development and Social Policy at Northwestern University but returned to the University of Chicago in 1988 as Rothschild Distinguished Scholar at the Center on Aging, Health, and Society, retiring in 1994. She and her husband, Fritz, had two children. Neugarten was the author or co-author of eight books and numerous articles, book chapters, addresses, and reports; these include Vita Humane (later titled Human Development) and a collection of essays, The Meanings of Age: Selected Papers of Bernice L. Neugarten (1996), edited by her daughter, Dr. Dail A. Neugarten. Neugarten's research disproved stereotypes about aging and the aged as well as misconceptions about development over the lifespan. Her coinages, including "the social clock," referring to the way individuals judge whether developments in their life are "on-time" or "off-time," "age-integrated society," "fluid life cycle," etc., have become mainstays of development studies; and her ideas greatly influenced social and governmental policies. For example, prior to her research, it was thought that personality was set early on. In contrast, she and her co-author David Gutmann found that personality develops and changes throughout life (1958). Similarly, while a vast body of medical and biological literature focused on the climacteric, her research revealed that middle-aged women did not view menopause as a significant event in their lives (1963). Her recognition that people age differently, based on their health and economic status, as well as chronological age, led her to cluster 55–74-year-olds as what she dubbed "young-old," and those over 75 as "old-old." In 1969–70 Neugarten chaired a faculty study on the status and opportunities open to women faculty and students at the University of Chicago, which made a series of recommendations for improving their experiences and adding to their numbers. She was president of the Gerontological Society of America (1969) and served a term on the United States Federal Council on Aging in the early 1980s.


N.K. Schlossberg and L.E. Troll, "Bernice L. Neugarten (1916–)," in: A.N. O'Connell and N.F. Russo (eds.), Womenin Psychology: A Bio-Bibliographic Sourcebook (1990), 256–65.

[Phyllis Holman Weisbard (2nd ed.)]

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Neugarten, Bernice

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