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Teacher and Mentor Ideal

Founder of Fullerton Longitudinal Study Honored by Western Psychological Association

March 16, 2010

By Mimi Ko Cruz


Title: Professor of psychology and director of Cal State Fullerton’s Developmental Research Center

Date of birth: Sept. 29, 1946

Residence: Porter Ranch

Family: Wife Adele Eskeles Gottfried, Cal State Northridge professor of educational psychology; and two sons, Michael and Jeffrey

Education: Ph.D. psychology, New School for Social Research in New York, 1974 (Doctoral Dissertation conducted at Columbia University School of Public Health) M.A. psychology, New School for Social Research, 1970 B.A. psychology, Adelphi University, 1968

Years teaching at Cal State Fullerton: 31

Quote: “The Fullerton Longitudinal Study is my passion and professional lifeline. I love the study of change over time. As the subjects age, the issues become increasingly exciting. The study is alive and developing itself.”

Philosophy: “Say yes and overextend, persistence wins, and if you don’t ask, the answer is no.”

Advice for students/future psychologists: “Find what you love to study and hope it loves you as well.”

Favorite Psychologist: “The late Jean Piaget, because he is a true genius and I was fortunate enough to attend a presentation of his.”

Favorite Book: “‘Night’ by Elie Wiesel, because it tells us how horrible this world could easily become and how fortunate we are to live in the United States. It conveys the power of the human spirit and determination under the most dreadful conditions.”

Hobbies: Research, travel and opera

Under the tutelage of Allen W. Gottfried over three decades, many of his students pursued doctoral degrees and became university professors and researchers.

Gottfried, professor of psychology and director of Cal State Fullerton’s Developmental Research Center — which houses his landmark Fullerton Longitudinal Study — guides his protégés through the rigors of research, from conducting surveys to publishing scientific papers and making conference presentations.

His students credit him for the 82 local, regional and national awards they’ve received.

For those reasons and more, Gottfried is being recognized as the recipient of the 2010 Western Psychological Association Teaching Award.

Association Kudos

“Dr. Gottfried has had an impact on thousands of undergraduate students over the years,” said Dale E. Berger, professor of psychology at Claremont Graduate University and director of the association’s Fellows and Awards Program. “He is the originator of the Psychology Day program at Cal State Fullerton, and has helped coordinate and raise funds for the one-day event that promotes psychology to current and prospective students.”

In addition, Berger said, Gottfried has introduced generations of students to professional exchanges through participation at WPA conferences.

And, “former students consider Dr. Gottfried to be their ideal of a teacher and mentor, praising his deep commitment to those who work with him,” Berger said. “His teaching, particularly his teaching beyond the classroom, has made transformational changes in students’ lives.”

The WPA is the largest regional professional psychology organization in the country. Membership is drawn primarily from the western states, but includes psychologists from across the country, as well as from Canada and Mexico. Each year, members nominate candidates for the organization's Teaching Award to recognize a fellow member who has demonstrated extraordinary teaching.

This year’s award will be bestowed in April at the Western Psychological Association Convention in Cancun. As part of the honor, Gottfried will receive a plaque, $500 and an invitation to be a featured speaker at WPA’s 2011 conference in Los Angeles.

Psychologist’s Background

Gottfried joined Cal State Fullerton’s faculty in 1978. During his tenure, he has written or edited eight books, published nearly 100 research papers and given more than 100 presentations at professional conferences nationwide. He has been the recipient of various awards, including being named a fellow of the WPA in 1993, the American Association of Applied and Preventive Psychology in 1991 and the American Psychological Society in 1989 and in 1986; College of Humanities and Social Sciences Distinguished Faculty Member in 2008; and Outstanding Psychology Professor in 2002.

He has given expert testimony regarding child-related matters in Los Angeles Superior Court and his 1985 research on maternal employment and child development was cited in a 1986 U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

But, Gottfried is best known for the Fullerton Longitudinal Study, which he launched 31 years ago. The study started with 130 1-year-old children, who were followed every six months through preschool and every year from age 5 to 17. They were surveyed again at age 24 and again last year at age 29. Though some of the subjects dropped out of the study, 106, who live all over the world, remain.

The study now includes 24 assessment waves with more than 18,000 variables on each participant. It frequently is cited in textbooks and research in developmental psychology.

Gottfried calls the research his “passion and professional lifeline.”

Future Focus

“I love the study of change over time,” he said. “As the subjects age, the issues become increasingly exciting. The study is alive and developing itself. We will continue to collect data.”

Gottfried said he is continuing the research and now is contemplating another follow-up assessment.

In addition, he is preparing a new course on developmental psychology and working on four journal articles on leadership.

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