Definition of Spock, Benjamin

Reviewed on 6/3/2021

Spock, Benjamin: (1903-1998) American pediatrician whose book on "Baby and Child Care" which first appeared in 1946 was one of the biggest best-sellers of all time. It sold some 50 million copies. Its revolutionary message to parents was that "you know more than you think you do." Spock gently coached parents to trust their "own common sense. What good mothers and fathers instinctively feel like doing for their babies is usually best." Such relaxed advice was far from the stern dictums of earlier standard works, like the 1928 book "Psychological Care of Infant and Child" by Dr. John B. Watson. "Never, never kiss your child," Dr. Watson commanded. "Never hold it in your lap. Never rock its carriage." Spock empowered parents. In response to critics, Spock once said they had distorted what he had written. "I didn't want to encourage permissiveness, but rather to relax rigidity."

Benjamin McLane Spock was born in New Haven, Connecticut. (The Spocks were descended from early Dutch settlers in the Hudson Valley; the family name was originally Spaak.) Dr. Spock attended Yale and won a gold medal as a member of the crew that won the Olympics in 1924. He studied at Yale Medical School and then transferred to Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons where he earned his MD degree. He trained in pediatrics in New York . He also spent 10 months as a resident in psychiatry at New York Hospital and he went on to training at the New York Psychoanalytic Institute from 1933 to 1938. Spock was the first pediatrician to study psychoanalysis to try to understand children's needs and family dynamics.

Dr. Spock was a prominent antiwar demonstrator in the 1960's. He campaigned for nuclear disarmament and against the war in Vietnam. "There's no point in raising children if they're going to be burned alive," he said, making the connection between pediatrics and politics.


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