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The behaviorist John Broadus Watson (1878–1958) was the most visible writer and authority on child-rearing and family relations in North America in the 1920s and 1930s. Initially an animal psychologist, Watson shifted to studying children, left academia for a career in advertising and offered expert advice that was popular, contradictory, and expressed the changing social mores of the day. Because his own development and family life was full of drama, Watson has been studied by historians, biographers, and cultural commentators alike and is seen by many as an expert whose advice reflected the social ethos of his time more than scientific discoveries. He is also someone whose reputation rose and fell with the public’s feelings about social engineering.

Born in rural South Carolina in 1878, Watson ...

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