Introduction A General Perspective of Research and Researchers

  • E. James Anthony


The purpose of this book is to be encouraging. It is largely addressed to those many clinicians in the field of child mental health who have often been tempted to explore a problem that interested them but have felt some diffidence about doing so because of a lack of research knowledge and training. Now it is true that research, like any other academic pursuit, benefits from training in methodology, but what becomes apparent on the reading of the different contributions to this volume is the self-made quality of the investigators. They have all carried out research not because they were trained to do research but because something within them that one can only nebulously term an attitude of mind compelled them to this activity. Technical proficiency can be acquired on the job and competence tends to increase with experience. The research attitude, however, is more difficult to acquire in its absence since its origins are often lost in the earliest years of life. It undoubtedly begins in wonder at the nature of things and with the wish to discover how they work. Anyone who has watched a year-old infant at work investigating the world around him will appreciate the zest and persistence with which it is done. Piaget (1952) has painted a vivid developmental portrait of the stage-5 baby during the sensorimotor period “discovering new means through active experimentation,” and one can glimpse the once and future researcher in the making if the environment proves to be facilitating:

Observation 1 for 2. —At 0; Laurent examines a watch chain hanging from his index finger. At first he touches it very lightly simply “exploring” it without grasping it. He then starts it swinging a little and at once continues this thus rediscovering a “derived secondary reaction.” But instead of stopping there, he grasps the chain with his right hand and swings it with his left while trying some new combinations (here the “tertiary reaction” begins); in particular he slides it along the back of his left hand and sees it fall off when it reaches the end. Then he holds the end of the chain (with his right index finger and thumb) and lets it slide slowly between the fingers of his left hand (the chain is now horizontal and no longer oblique as before). He studies it carefully at the moment when the chain falls from his left hand and repeats this ten times. Afterward, still holding the end of the chain in his right hand, he shakes it violently which makes it describe a series of varied trajectories in the air. He then shows these movements in order to see how the chain slides along the quilt when he merely pulls it. Finally he drops it from different heights and so rediscovers the schema acquired in the preceding observation. From his twelfth month Laurent repeated these kinds of experiments with everything that his hand came upon. He entertains himself either by making them slide or fall or by letting them go in different positions and from different heights in order to study their trajectory [p. 269].


Index Finger Child Psychiatry Child Mental Health Child Psychiatrist General Perspective 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1975

Authors and Affiliations

  • E. James Anthony
    • 1
  1. 1.The Harry Edison Child Development Research CenterWashington University School of MedicineSt. LouisUSA

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