The Public Interest

When psychotherapy replaces religion

James Davison Hunter

Spring 2000

WHEN it comes to the moral life of children, the vocabulary of the psychologist frames virtually all public discussion. For decades now, contributions from philosophers and theologians have been muted or nonexistent.  Anthropologists and sociologists are likewise absent from the discussion. Historians have been busy documenting the major developments in this reahn of social life, but their influence has been limited mainly to their guild. Rather, it is the psychologists, and in particular the developmental and educational psychologists, who have owned this field—in theory and in practice. All of the major players in the last half of the twentieth century have been psychologists. Erik Erikson, B. F.  Skinner, Benjamin Spock, Havighurst, Carl Rodgers, Jean Piaget, Abraham Maslow, Rudolf Dreikurs, William Glasser, Lawrence Kohlberg, Louis Rath, Sidney Simon, Jane Loevinger, Daniel Levinson, Robert Selman, Maurice Elias—their assumptions, concepts, and paradigms have largely determined how all of us think about the moral lives of children, and, indeed, about moral life generally.

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