Great Strides: Celebrating Women in Medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center

Understanding a Child's Mind

Stella Chess, MD, (1914-2007), Class of 1939, was a clinician and researcher who, along with her husband and research partner, Dr. Alexander Thomas, initiated the New York Longitudinal Study in 1956. This study carefully observed the behavior of 133 children from infancy and childhood, seeking to understand how personality is formed. Dr. Chess and her colleagues identified nine distinct traits that came to be known as the "temperament of the child," and challenged the notion that psychiatric disorders were the product of bad parenting. Her research led to the authoring of several books on the topic of children’s personality development, including Know Your Child, published in 1987.

Dr. Chess came to the NYU School of Medicine in 1966 as associate professor of child psychiatry. In 1970, she became the first appointed professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at NYU Medical Center.