by John W. Hagen, Ph.D. and Paul L. Cobb
The Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD) is a leading organization of professionals from a wide range of academic disciplines and backgrounds, all concerned with the study of child development and the improvement of the lives of children and families. Currently there are 6,000 members, over 800 of whom are from 50 countries outside the United States. SRCD promotes interdisciplinary research on infant, child, and adolescent development in diverse contexts and across a life-long trajectory; fosters the exchange of information among scientists and research consumers world wide; and fosters applications of research-based knowledge.
The SRCD was the outcome of the Committee on Child Development established by the National Research Council, the research arm of the National Academy of Sciences, in 1922. During its years, the committee effectively encouraged interest in the field by awarding fellowships, initiating conferences, and promoting publications. The journal Child Development was founded in 1930 and remains the flagship journal in the field 73 years later. In 1933, at the recommendation of the committee, the SRCD was formed as a free-standing organization.
SRCD is considered the major professional organization in the field of child development. Currently, its executive office is housed in Ann Arbor and its Office for Policy and Communications is located in Washington, D.C. There are several standing committees in addition to the Society’s Governing Council and Publications Committees. These include the Committee on Ethnic and Racial Issues, the Ethical Conduct Committee, the International Affairs Committee, the History of Child Development Committee, and the Policy and Communications Committee.
Publications, which include Child Development and the Mono - graphs of the Society for Research in Child Development, aswell as the Social Policy Reports and the Society’s Newsletter, SRCD Developments, are a major part ofthe SRCD’s endeavors. Child Developmentand Monographs areamong the most cited and most highly circulated of all the journals in the field. The Social Policy Reports, first published in 1984, provide summaries and commentaries of key issues and policies relevant to children and families and is available to the public online at the website: www.srcd.org.
SRCD holds its meetings biennially in the spring of odd-numbered years. Approximately 6,000 attend, and the program, covering three and a half days, contains almost 3,000 presentations, including invited addresses, symposia, discussions, and poster presentations. The content is highly interdisciplinary and deals with many aspects of policy and application as well as theory-driven research.
The SRCD also serves as the administrative home for the Society for Research on Adolescence (SRA) (http:// www. s - r - a . o r g). Established in 1984 as an international, multidisciplinary, professional association, the goal of the SRA is to promote research and dissemination concerning development on adolescence. The SRA currently has approximately 1,100 members and serves a complementary role with SRCD both in terms of its emphasis on adolescent development and with its meetings in the years SRCD does not meet.
In analyses of trends in research in Child Development over the past decade, we have discovered several changes that are most encouraging. For example, there have been significant increases in the number of children of color in the articles published in Child Development from the early 1990’s to the present. The range of SES of families and children studied has increased and includes children from virtually all social classes. Further, the geographic distribution of the children studied as well as the location of the authors conducting the studies has expanded considerably. Currently about one fourth of the studies are conducted with children and families outside of North America, and about twenty different countries are included. This trend is a marked departure from just a decade ago. We are presently studying the trends in peer journals in order to determine if these changes are typified in what is being published in the other leading journals.
The governing council of SRCD is completing a two-year process of strategic planning. As a result, new initiatives are being implemented that will enable the Society to provide more services to its members and to be on the cutting edge of the major trends in our fields and professions. We are launching a new journal Child Development Perspectives, which should begin publication in 2007. It is aimed at providing relevant professional audiences critiques and commentaries designed to integrate theory and research that have policy implications for important topics concerning children and families. Another initiative from the strategic plan is to involve scholars and professionals from all relevant disciplines in publications, meetings and other activities. The Society has always included multidisciplinary approaches, but new efforts are being made to assure we take full advantage of the valuable new work coming from the many relevant disciplines.
Another major initiative resulting from the strategic plan concerns international research and programs. For many years, SRCD has been committed to increasing membership from outside the United States, encompassing a broader range of research, and having more diversity in its meetings and journals. We have already described some of the fruits of these efforts as seen in the trends occurring in the journal and the biennial meeting program. Scholars from many different countries and parts of the world are increasingly involved in publishing in the journals, attending and participating in the meetings, and becoming active in the governance of the Society.
A series of workshops and conferences is being developed concerning advances in education, comparing effective practices and research on teaching and learning across international boundaries. Two will be held in the United States, one will be in South Africa and a fourth in Berlin, with scholars from multiple countries participating in each. These will vary in scope and size and more information will be available via the SRCD website when dates and details are determined. It is apparent that scholars, teachers and practitioners concerned with healthy, positive development in children and with good parenting must be knowledgeable of, and when feasible, involved with professionals who work in development in all parts of the world. The quality and scope of good science and practice has increased manyfold over the past two decades and we shall all benefit from sharing and exchange. All professional societies will benefit from participation in this new, global network.
SRCD has established itself as a major influence in promoting quality research, obtaining resources to facilitate further research, communicating the knowledge gained, and promoting the application of findings to policy and practice.
John W. Hagen, Ph.D., is a professor of psychology at The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. He also serves as Executive Officer of The Society for Research in Child Development.
Paul L. Cobb, B.A., is a learning specialist in the department of psychology at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. He also serves as a staff assistant in the Executive Office of The Society for Research in Child Development.