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Robert James Havighurst (June 5, 1900 in De Pere, Wisconsin – January 31, 1991 in Richmond, Indiana) was a professor, physicist, educator, and aging expert. Both his father, Freeman Alfred Havighurst, and mother, Winifred Weter Havighurst, had been educators at Lawrence University. Havighurst worked and published well into his 80s. According to his family, Havighurst died of Alzheimer's disease at the age of ninety.


He attended public schools in Wisconsin and Illinois. He obtained many degrees and education achievements: 1918-21 B.A. from Ohio Wesleyan University, 1922 M.A. Ohio State University, 1924 Ph.D., Chemistry Ohio State University, 1953-54 Fulbright Scholar, University of Canterbury, New Zealand, 1961 Fulbright Scholar University of Buenos Aires, 1962 Honorary Degree Sc. Adelphi University, 1963 Hon. L.L.D. Ohio Wesleyan University.


He published a number of papers in journal of physics and chemistry about the structure of the atom in 1924. [1] He went to Harvard University as a postdoctoral fellow, studying atomic structure and publishing papers in journals of physics and chemistry.

He decided to change careers in 1928, so he went into the field of experimental education. He became an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin. In 1940, he became an education professor at the University of Chicago in the Universities Child Development department. He worked in the field of aging. Again, in the same year he was interested in international and comparative aspects of education. He wrote several books and published many papers. His most famous book called "Human Development and Education".

He was inducted in the International Adult and Continuing Education Hall of Fame. [2]

Intellectual ContributionsEdit

Havighurst educational research did much to advance education in the United States. Educational theory before Havighurst was basically old school where children learned by rote and little concern was given to how children developed. From 1948 to 1953 he developed his highly influential theory of human development and education. The crown jewel of his research was on developmental task. Havighurst tried to define the developmental stages on many levels.

Havighurst identified Six Major Stages in human life covering birth to old age.

  • Infancy & early childhood (Birth till 6 years old)
  • Middle childhood (6-12 years old)
  • Adolescence (13-18 years old)
  • Early Adulthood (19-30 years old)
  • Middle Age (30-60years old)
  • Later maturity (60 years old and over)

From there, Havighurst recognized that each human has three sources for developmental tasks. They are:

  • Tasks that arise from physical maturation: Learning to walk, talk, control of bowel and urine, behaving in an acceptable manner to opposite sex, adjusting to menopause.
  • Tasks that arise from personal values: Choosing an occupation, figuring out ones philosophical outlook.
  • Tasks that have their source in the pressures of society: Learning to read, learning to be responsible citizen.

The developmental tasks model that Havighurst developed was age dependent.

Developmental Tasks

(Ages 0-6)

  • Learning to walk. * Learning to crawl. * Learning to take solid food. * Learning to talk. * Learning to control the elimination of body wastes. * Learning sex differences and sexual modesty. * Getting ready to read. * Forming concepts and learning language to describe social and physical reality.

(Ages 6-12)

  • Learning physical skills necessary for ordinary games. * Learning to get along with age mates. * Building wholesome attitudes toward oneself as a growing organism. * Learning on appropriate masculine or feminine social role. * Developing concepts necessary for everyday living. * Developing concepts necessary for everyday living. * Developing conscience, morality and a scale of values. * Achieving personal independence. * Developing attitudes toward social groups and institutions.

(Ages 12-18)

  • Achieving new and more mature relations with age mates of both sexes. * Achieving a masculine or feminine social role. * Accepting one’s physique and using the body effectively. * Achieving emotional independence of parents and other adults. * Preparing for marriage and family life. * Acquiring a set of values and an ethical system as a guide to behavior. * Desiring and achieving socially responsible behavior.

(Ages 18-30)

  • Selecting a mate. * Learning to live with a partner. * Starting family. * Rearing children. * Managing home. * Getting started in occupation. * Taking on civic responsibility. * Finding a congenial social group.

(Ages 30-60)

  • Assisting teenage children to become responsible and happy adults. * Achieving adult social and civic responsibility. * Reaching and maintaining satisfactory performance in one’s occupational career. * Developing adult leisure time activities. * Relating oneself to one’s spouse as a person. * To accept and adjust to the physiological changes of middle age. * Adjusting to aging parents.

(60 and over)

  • Adjusting to decreasing physical strength and health. Adjusting to retirement and reduced income. * Adjusting to death of a spouse. * Establishing an explicit affiliation with one’s age group. * Adopting and adapting social roles in a flexible way. * Establishing satisfactory physical living arrangements.

Educational Work and Civil RightsEdit

From 1967 through 1971, Havighurst directed the National Study of Indian Education, which was funded by the U.S. Office of Education. He involved Native Americans in planning the study as well as helping in field work and data analysis. The conclusions indicated that education for Native American youth across the United States varied widely according to numerous factors such as funding, location, curriculum, faculty, degree of isolation, and cultural differences. Recommendations included finding ways for Native Americans to have an increased voice in their education and the establishment of a National Commission on Indian Education.

In the late 1960s and 1970s, Havighurst focused his attention on the problems of urban education. He conducted a study of public high schools in the forty-five largest cities in the United States. The study examined: educational goals, school structure and organization, staff characteristics, curriculum, student activities, student activism, and school-community relations. Havighurst concluded that there was more and deeper segregation and separation of high school students of different socioeconomic and ethnic groups in 1969 to 1970 than there was ten or twenty years before. In 1977, at age seventy-seven, he coedited a book in which he developed a series of policies and practices for the improvement of big city schools based on his research.

Major Published WorksEdit

  • WHO SHALL BE EDUCATED?: THE CHALLENGE OF UNEQUAL OPPORTUNITIES. New York: Harper, 1944; Havighurst, Robert J.; and Davis, Allison.
  • FATHER OF THE MAN: HOW YOUR CHILD GETS HIS PERSONALITY. New York: Houghton, 1947; Havighurst, Robert J.; and Neugarten, Bernice L.
  • AMERICAN INDIAN AND WHITE CHILDREN: A SOCIOPSYCHOLOGICAL INVESTIGATION. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1955; Havighurst, Robert J.; Stivers, Eugene; and DeHaan, Robert F.
  • A SURVEY OF THE EDUCATION OF *GIFTED CHILDREN. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1955; Gross, Irma; Havighurst, Robert J.; and others (Eds.).
  • POTENTIALITIES OF WOMEN IN THE MIDDLE YEARS. E. Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1957; Havighurst, Robert J.; and DeHann, Robert F.
  • EDUCATING GIFTED CHILDREN. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957; Havighurst, Robert J.; and others.
  • GROWING UP IN RIVER CITY. New York: Wiley, 1962; Havighurst, Robert J.; Neugarten, Bernice L.; and Falk, Jacqueline M.
  • SOCIETY AND EDUCATION: A BOOK OF READINGS. New York: Allyn & Bacon, 1967; Havighurst, Robert J., (Editor).
  • COMPARATIVE PERSPECTIVES ON EDUCATION. New York: Little and Brown, 1968; Havighurst, Robert J.; and others.
  • OPTOMETRY: EDUCATION FOR THE PROFESSION. National Commission on Accrediting, 1973.

Havighurst QuotesEdit

"Family life is the source of the greatest human happiness. This happiness is the simplest and least costly kind, and it cannot be purchased with money. But it can be increased if we do two things: if we recognize and uphold the essential values of family life and if we get and keep control of the process of social change so as to make it give us what is needed to make family life perform its essential functions."

"The modern world needs people with a complex identity who are intellectually autonomous and prepared to cope with uncertainty; who are able to tolerate ambiguity and not be driven by fear into a rigid, single-solution approach to problems, who are rational, foresightful and who look for facts; who can draw inferences and can control their behavior in the light of foreseen consequences, who are altruistic and enjoy doing for others, and who understand social forces and trends."

"A successful mother sets her children free and becomes free herself in the process."

"The two basic principle processes of education are knowing and valuing."

"The art of friendship has been little cultivated in our society."


  • Robert J. Havighurst (1971) Developmental Tasks and Education, Third Edition. New York. Longman.

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