Skip to main content

Child Study Association of America records

Identifier: sw0019

Scope and Content

The Child Study Association of America records consist of: minutes, agenda, correspondence, memorandums, financial records, reports and annual reports, transcripts, photographs, newspaper clippings, articles, invitations, programs, press releases, fliers, form letters, promotional materials, and guest books. A portion of the records consists of microfilm proceedings of parent education conferences that were held during the 1920s and early minutes of CSAA predecessors dating from 1890 to1892 and 1896 to 1900. The records also contain the papers of long-time executive director, Sidonie Matsner Gruenberg, and CSAA staff member, Josette Frank. Concentrations of their papers, which include correspondence, speeches and articles, are found primarily in the Study Department records under Series 3, Departments and Programs. Their personal papers are located in Series 5, Staff.

The CSAA records document the association's efforts to promote understanding of child development, child rearing, and family life by interpreting the findings of psychiatry, psychology, educational philosophy, and sociology for parents and professionals. Small group study and discussion were central to CSAA's educational efforts. The records document the activities of individual chapters as well as the work of the Study Group Department. A significant portion of the records delineates work by CSAA's Program Advisory Service and standing committees to produce lectures, radio broadcasts, courses, conferences, symposia, and published resources on child development topics. These records also document work by various standing committees to study and influence children's media, such as books, radio, and comics. Materials dating from 1955 to 1970 reflect the association's shift toward training social workers, Head Start program staff, nurses, and other professionals to work with parents and children.

In addition to documenting CSAA, the records chronicle its predecessors, the Society for the Study of Child Nature(1888-1908) and the Federation for Child Study(1908-1924). The records also provide information on the two related groups: the Inter-Community Child Study Committee, which was organized in 1929 to address the parent education needs of African American communities, and the National Council of Parent Education, which was founded at a CSAA conference in 1925.

Along with the 17 feet of records described in this finding aid, another 45 feet of unprocessed records dating from 1908-1972 is also available and will be added to the online finding aid at a later date. Contact the archives for additional information.


  • 1890-1972

Language of Materials


Use of Materials

Open for use in Social Welfare History Archives reading room.


Please contact the Archives for copyright information.

Historical Note

The Child Study Association of America (CSAA) grew out of the Society for the Study of Child Nature, which was formed in 1888. In 1908, the society was renamed the Federation for Child Studyand began to more actively disseminate child development information. During the 1920s, grants from the Laura Spellman Rockefeller Memorial Fund enabled the federation to expand its programs. The organization was formally incorporated and renamed Child Study Association of America in 1924. CSAA continued to provide parental education and consultation services on child development topics through the 1960s, when it began to shift its emphasis to professional training. By the 1970s, CSAA focused almost entirely on training programs for child welfare, child health, and education professionals. A series of mergers and continuing financial difficulties during the 1970s and 1980s, led to the gradual dissolution of the association.

The Society for the Study of Child Nature, was formed in 1888 by five women in order to study children from "the mental, moral and physical view points." At a time when there was little authoritative information about child development, the group drew upon the works of philosophers such as Plato, Rousseau, Spencer, and Adler. Later, the society also studied education and psychology pioneers, including Friedrich Froebel, Maria Montessori, Granville Stanley Hall, and Havelock Ellis. In 1908, the society was renamed the Federation for Child Studyto reflect its desire to act as a central agency to facilitate understanding of child development, child rearing, and family life by sharing the experiences of small parent education groups across the country. The federation's study groups incorporated theories derived from modern psychiatry and psychology into their programs, becoming among the first organization to interpret these fields to American parents. The small study group remained central to CSAA's methodology throughout its history. During the 1920s, grants from the Laura Spellman Rockefeller Memorial Fund enabled the federation to expand its programs. The organization was formally incorporated and renamed Child Study Association of America in 1924.

The core of the Association's work was with parents enrolled in study groups under the leadership of a professionally trained staff member. According to the Association, its attitude toward parent education was "a common sense approach to the findings of science." The CSAA studied psychiatry, psychology, and sociology and interpreted "sound and useful" ideas for parents and professionals. In addition to study groups organized at CSAA headquarters in New York City and at private homes in the area, there were a number of groups associated with settlement houses, church and community groups, and housing developments in Harlem and in New York's lower east side. Study groups explored a range of topics including adolescence, discipline, children with physical or developmental disabilities, money, recreation, schools, sex education, sexual behavior, and techniques of leadership for parent education groups.

Another important aspect of the Association's work to disseminate child rearing information was the Program Advisory Service, formerly called the Speakers' Bureau. The service arranged lectures and radio broadcasts by CSAA staff; aided in the preparation of CSAA conferences and symposia; and counseled organizations throughout the United States in the planning of constructive parent-child programs.

The association established committees on children's art and literature. It also instituted bibliography, publications, and radio committees to produce educational and parenting resources. Involving a large number of volunteers, these committees reviewed books for children and adults, prepared exhibits and galleries, presented awards, and prepared materials for publication by CSAA.

In addition to books, manuals, and pamphlets, the CSAA published Child Study, a journal of parent education. In 1923, the association received a small grant from the Laura Spellman Rockefeller Memorial Fund to support dissemination of current thinking and findings concerning child care and family life to member chapters. The result was an eight page mailing, the Federation for Child Study Bulletin,which two years later became the monthly, then quarterly, magazine Child Study. During the summer of 1960, CSAA suspended publication of the journal so that a broader program of publishing books, pamphlets, and leaflets could be instituted.

CSAA appears to have undergone an important shift in focus during the 1960s. Although CSAA continued to provide discussion groups and other programs delivered directly to parents and to publish resources on child development and family life, it increased its professional education and consultation services. It offered education and training programs and resources to professionals in fields related to children and families. It also offered program consultation to private and public agencies. These efforts included several national-level programs. For example, CSAA ran a five year training program through the United States Children's Bureau for nurses on working with expectant parents or parents of young children and a two year program for family case workers on reaching low income families that was sponsored by the Family Service Association of America. The association also provided curriculum and training in parent education and community action to family agency social workers as part of the OEO-funded Project Enable.

By the 1970s, the association was focusing almost entirely on training professionals who worked with families. A description of CSAA's programs from 1969-1970 stated that it was"primarily a training center for the staffs of public and private health, education, and welfare agencies directly serving parents, children, and communities." In 1967, CSAA began a program to provide parental involvement training to Head Start program staff from agencies in the Northeast (Head start regions I and II). Over the next few years, the program expanded to other regions. The training programs were designed to created a "core of well-trained parental involvement specialists" who would take over upon completion of the CSAA program. In 1969, CSAA also ran a program in the South Bronx area of New York City to train social workers, sociologists and doctors to educate parents regarding health services. Another program trained health department educators to work with para professionals who were recruited as part of a manpower training program. The association appears to have been hoping to develop into an accredited educational institution and was exploring steps necessary to achieve that goal. However, ongoing financial problems, including the termination of funding for CSAA to provide Head Start training, interfered with this goal and helped lead CSAA into a series of mergers that eventually resulted in the parceling out or cessation of all of its programs.

In 1972, CSAA formally dissolved and turned over all of its assets to Wel-Met, Inc. In 1973, CSAA merged with Wel-Met to form Child Study Association of America/Wel-Met. Wel-Met had been founded in 1935 by the Metropolitan League of Jewish Community Associations to operate summer camps for urban children. The new organization ran three camps and provided counseling and referral services. It also planned to provide adult education programs in the "moral, mental and physical training and up-brining of children," which appears to have been CSAA's contribution to the partnership. By 1977, CSAA/Wel-Met was plagued with financial problems, partly due to decreased participation in camping programs. The board decided to terminate operations and was exploring plans for handling the organization's remaining assets, including the formation of a capital preservation corporation. It is not clear what became of the plan or whether CSAA/Wel-Met continued to provide any services or simply existed as a corporate entity. However, CSAA/Wel-Met still existed in 1985, when it merged with Goddard-Riverside Community Center in New York. Goddard-Riverside does not appear to have continued CSAA's parent or professional education efforts, and the merger effectively marked the end of what remained of CSAA as a corporate body and the cessation of any of its original programs.


62.5 Linear Feet


Records of an association providing education and resources on child development and child rearing for parents and professionals. Also comprises records of predecessor organizations. Includes: minutes, agenda, correspondence, memorandums, financial records, reports and annual reports, transcripts, photographs, newspaper clippings, articles, invitations, programs, press releases, fliers, form letters, promotional materials, and guest books. Includes microfilm of conference proceedings from the 1920s and minutes from 1890 to 1900. Also includes articles, speeches, and correspondence of executive director, Sidonie Matsner Gruenberg, and staff member, Josette Frank. Incorporates papers of two related groups: minutes, correspondence, reports, and chapter records of the Inter-Community Child Study Committee and minutes, correspondence, financial records, and conference files of the National Council on Parent Education.

Arrangement of the Records

The portion of the Child Study Association of America records that is described in this guide is organized into seven series:

  1. Series1. Predecessor Organizations, 1896-1925
  2. Series 2. Administrative and Policy Making Bodies, 1925-1960
  3. Series 3. Standing Committees, 1924-1965
  4. Series 4. Departments and Programs, 1926-1965
  5. Series 5. Staff (including Gruenberg and Frank personal papers), 1904-1965
  6. Series 6. Guest Books, Notebooks, Photographs, Scrapbooks, 1903-1954
  7. Series 7. Related Organizations, 1925-1949

Other Finding Aid

Unpublished inventories available for all records. In particular, patrons who need information about the 45 feet of unprocessed records dating from 1908 to 1972, should contact the Archives for information about the unpublished inventory of the files.

Acquisition Information

The records were a gift of the board of directors of the Child Study Association of America in 1967. The initial gift was followed by additional records in 1975. The archives also microfilmed the minutes of CSAA's predecessor organizations and early conference proceedings in 1967.


The minutes of Child Study Association of America predecessors are available on microfilm. These consist of minutes of the Society for the Study of Child Nature (November, 1890, to March, 1892) and minutes of the Society for the Study of Child Nature, Chapter I (December, 1896, to December, 1900). Transcripts of proceedings from the following parent education conferences are also available on microfilm:

  1. Conference on Parental Education, October 19-24, 1925
  2. Conference on Modern Parenthood, October 26-28, 1925
  3. Conference on Parental Education and the Public Schools, July 24-26, 1928
  4. Child Study Association of American Fortieth Anniversary Conference and Dinner, November 20, 1928
  5. Brooklyn Conference on Parent Education, October 22, 1929
  6. Manhattan Conference on Parent Education, October 29, 1929
  7. Round Table Discussion, April 11, 1930

Related Materials

Goddard-Riverside Community Centerrecords, Columbia University Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University, New York, NY. Records from the Child Study Association of America are listed under the Predecessor Organizations series.

Processing and Finding Aid Information

The Child Study Association of America (CSAA) records were arranged and described as three distinct groups as new materials were acquired by the archives between 1967 and 1975. The initial gift of records that arrived in 1967, a second gift that was received in 1975, and a set of microfilmed minutes and proceedings were described in three separate finding aids. Formerly, patrons had to consult multiple documents in order to obtain complete information on the CSAA records. As part of a project to mount finding aids online, the archives has merged the information about the CSAA records into one comprehensive finding aid. This finding aid contains information regarding the original records accession and the microfilm edition. Information about the unprocessed supplement to the CSAA records will be added at a later date.

Child Study Association of America records
William K. Wallach; revised by Linnea M. Anderson and David Klaassen
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Collecting Area Details

Contact The Social Welfare History Archives Collecting Area