Marian Radke-Yarrow; Studied Emotional, Social Development

Marian Radke-Yarrow, an NIH psychologist, wrote or co-wrote several books on childhood development.
Marian Radke-Yarrow, an NIH psychologist, wrote or co-wrote several books on childhood development. (Family Photo)
Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Marian Radke-Yarrow, 89, a National Institutes of Health research psychologist who conducted extensive research into developmental concerns centered on children and social issues, died May 19 at her home in Bethesda. She had leukemia.

Dr. Radke-Yarrow joined the National Institute of Mental Health in 1953 and from 1974 to 1995 was chief of the laboratory of developmental psychology.

Her research included long-term studies of children of depressed mothers that looked into the complicated relationship that forms from the mother's confusing emotional signals.

Her studies on altruism found that, in contrast to previous beliefs, children under 6 were able to understand the perspective of another person.

She also looked into how proper nutrition affects the emotional development of babies and young children.

As part of a social-scientific delegation to China in 1973, she had a rare firsthand view of how children were raised in what was long an isolated communist country. Her findings appeared in a 1975 book, "Childhood in China."

Early in her career, she and colleagues participated in what was called the Philadelphia Early Childhood Project, a novel effort by the public school system and various research institutions to counter prejudicial attitudes on race, religion and national origin among school children.

The study reportedly helped disprove the attitude of some school officials that young children are immune to prejudice.

Marian Jeanette Radke was born in Horicon, Wis. She was a 1939 graduate of the University of Wisconsin and received a doctorate in psychology from the University of Minnesota in 1944.

Early on, she taught psychology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Queens College and the University of Denver and was a psychological adviser to the Army.

She was the recipient of many top professional honors, and she wrote or co-wrote several books, including "They Learn What They Live: Prejudice in Young Children" (1952) with Helen G. Trager and "Children of Depressed Mothers: From Early Childhood to Maturity" (1998) with Pedro Martinez, Anne Mayfield and Donna Ronsaville.

She sat on editorial boards of psychological journals and lectured widely. She also endowed a fellowship in child development at the University of Minnesota.

She was married to Leon J. Yarrow, an NIH psychologist, from 1949 until his death in 1982.

Survivors include a son, Andrew L. Yarrow of Bethesda, and a grandson.

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