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Edward F. Zigler

Developmental psychologist who has focused on maximizing the potential of children from under-privileged backgrounds, and who has significantly contributed to national programs for children such as the Head Start program.

Edward Frank Zigler was born in 1930 to Louis Zigler and Gertrude (Gleitman) Zigler of Kansas, Missouri. His parents and two older sisters immigrated to the United States from Poland. After attending a vocational high school in Kansas City, Zigler earned his B.S. at the University of Missouri, Kansas City. He went on to obtain his Ph.D. in developmental psychology from the University of Texas at Austin in 1958. He then taught for a year at the University of Missouri at Columbia before going to Yale in 1959, where he became director of the Yale University department of child development in 1961. Zigler married Bernice Gorelick in 1955 and has one son, Scott.

In 1970, Zigler was appointed by President Nixon to the post of first director of the office of Child Development, which has since been renamed the Administration of Children, Youth and Families. He was also appointed as chief of the U.S. Children's Bureau. While he was the director of the Office of Child Development in Washington, Zigler administered the nation's Head Start Program, which was established by the United States Congress in 1965, and funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as part of the "war on poverty" legislation of 1964. Its purpose is to provide educational, health, and social services for pregnant mothers, children from birth to age five, and their families through the channels of preschool education, medical treatment, and developmental screenings. The Head Start theory is that all of a child's early needs must be met in order for them to reach their full potential later on. Theoretically, the program enables underprivileged children, or those with severe learning disabilities, to develop and be better prepared to face life later on.

Zigler is frequently called as an expert witness before congressional committees and to comment on social policy issues that concern children and families in the United States. He has also chaired numerous conferences concerned with children. Notably, he was appointed as Honorary Commissioner for the National Commission on the Year of the Child in 1979.

Zigler served on the President's Committee on Mental Retardation and was requested by president Ford to chair the Vietnamese Children's Resettlement Advisory Group. In 1980, at President Carter's request, he chaired the fifteenth anniversary Head Start Committee. This committee was charged with planning future policy for this government-run intervention program. As director of the Office of Child Development, Zigler is also credited with conceptualizing and initiating other programs such as Health Start, Home Start, Education for Parenthood, the Child Development Associate Program and the Child and Family Resource Program.

In 1993, Zigler was appointed as head of a national committee of distinguished Americans who were charged with looking into the possibilities for legislation to make infant care leave a reality in the United States. The work of this committee culminated in the Family and Medical Leave act of 1993.

Zigler has written 26 books and over five hundred articles about his research and theories. In addition, he is a member of the editorial boards of ten professional journals, Associate Editor of Children and Youth Services Review, and consulting editor of the Merril-Palmer Quarterly. In August 1999, Zigler published Personality Development in Individuals with Mental Retardation, consolidating forty years of his research on the subject.

Zigler has been awarded numerous honors, among them the Harold W. McGraw, Jr., Prize in Education, awards from the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr., Foundation, the American Psychological Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Association for Retarded Citizens, the American Association on Mental Deficiency, the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the National Head Start Association, and the American Orthopsychiatric Association.

Currently Sterling Professor of Psychology at Yale, Zigler is head of the Yale Child Study Facility and also director of the Bush Center in Child Development and Social Policy. His laboratory is notable for the range of basic and applied studies of child development and family functioning studies in which it is engaged.

See also Child development

Patricia Skinner

Further Reading

Sheehy, et al, eds. Biographical dictionary of psychology. New York: Routledge, 1997.

Additional topics

Psychology EncyclopediaFamous Psychologists & Scientists