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Henri Wallon

Henri Wallon

“It is dialectics that has given psychology its stability and its meaning, and which has delivered psychology from the alternatives of elementary materialism or vapid idealism, of crude substantialism or hopeless irrationalism. Through dialectics psychology is able to be at once a natural science and a human science, thus abolishing the division between consciousness and things that spiritualism has sought to impose on the universe. Marxist dialectics has enabled psychology to comprehend the organism and its environment, in constant interaction, as a single, unified whole.”- Henry Paul Wallon, Psychology and Dialectical Materialism, 1942.

Henry Paul Hyacinthe Wallon was an accomplished French psychologist, philosopher, teacher, neuro-psychiatrist and an active politician. Born on June 15th, 1879, in Paris he was a thorough Marxist whose major works were in the field of child psychology and development. His theories were greatly influenced by Marxism’s interpretations in relation to the individual, social, emotional and cognitive development of children. He was the first psychologist who applied the concept of dialectical materialism in his psychological studies.

According to the theories of Henry Wallon, child development is not a single step process. It takes place in continuous stages over a period of time. These stages are generally characterized by intelligence and affectivity.  He also presented the concept of social and environmental factors impacting on the development of a child. He proposed his analysis on a dialectical model which comprised of concepts defining interpersonal bonds, attitudes and emotions in the development of a child. According to Wallon’s theories the primary stages concerning child development comprises of the impulsive and emotional stage, the sensorimotor and projective stage, the personalism stage, the categorical stage and the adolescence stage. Each of these stages has been characterized by the unique aspects essential to the development of a child. The first stage is the impulsive stage that starts from the time when a baby is born and lasts up to twelve months. This stage is characterized by affectivity where the infant develops his internal feelings through his environment. Then, the personalism stage is dominated by affectivity in which a child learns through an adult whom he assumes to be his role model. The next stage is known as projective stage characterized by intelligence. It lasts from one to three years and is dominated by intelligence. The child gets stimulated by the external world by developing his practical and discursive intelligence. The third stage is the categorical stage in which a child develops the capabilities of acquiring knowledge through memory and voluntary attention. The last stage is the adolescence stage which is characterized by affectivity.

Henry Paul Wallon was also an active politician. He started his political career by joining the Socialist Political Party (SFIO) of French in 1931 as well as acquiring the membership of French Communist Party in 1942. He was also elected as Secretary of National Education in 1944.His literary works includes Psychological And Dialectical Materialism (1942), The Origins Of Thought In The Child (1947), Genetic Psychology (1956). He died on December 1st, 1962, in Paris.