The origins: The Institute of Development Psychology

The Department of Developmental Psychology and Socialization was preceded by the Institute of Development Psychology, in a similar way as the Department of General Psychology took the place of the already established Institute of Psychology.

These two institutes were established at different times. The Institute of Psychology was founded by Vittorio Benussi in 1920, and was then directed, from the 1930s, by Cesare Musatti and Fabio Metelli. The Institute of Developmental Psychology was founded in 1965 thanks to Fabio Metelli and Guido Petter, who was also the director until 1977. The establishment of the Institute of Developmental Psychology was favored by the growing interest for the psychological development of children and by the possible application of psychological research outputs in the field of education, an interest that drew out of the increasing diffusion of Jean Piaget’s work on cognitive development in Italy.


The early research areas

The Institute of Development Psychology, thanks to its group of researchers (Guido Petter, Giuseppe Mosconi, Vittorio Rubini, Bruno Vezzani, Giuseppe Fara, Gabriele Di Stefano, Franca Tessari, Maria Talladini), contributed significantly to increasing the interest in the study of the psychological development of children, both at the university and in schools. Researchers at the Institute undertook studies on the development of perception, language, cognitive abilities, problems of the adolescence, and educational psychology. Thanks to the scientific activity of its members the Institute was well positioned to become one of the leading research centers in Italy, which also established early collaborations with research centers abroad. Thanks to a coordinated effort of both psychology institutes, in 1969, Jean Piaget was awarded an honorary degree from the University of Padova. In that very occasion the Genevan scientist visited the Institute of Development Psychology together with Barbara Inhelder and met both researchers and students.


The Degree in Psychology

After 1971, as a consequence of the establishment of an independent Degree in Psychology and the new teaching obligations related to it, the faculty and staff of the Institute was increased. New addition to the faculty were those of Renzo Vianello, Beatrice Benelli, Francesca Simion, Chiara Levorato, Laura D’Odorico, Anna Silvia Bombi, Camilla Gobbo, Franca Agnoli, Anna Emilia Berti, Maria Laura Marin, Chiara Nicolini, Giovanna Axia, Cristina Esposito, Adriana Lis and several others. The new four-years Degree in Psychology was initially attended by a few thousands students as Padova was, at the time, one of the only two psychology programs in Italy. From 1977 to 1982 the Institute was directed by Giuseppe Mosconi. Then, from 1982 to 1984, the director became Gabriele Di Stefano. Under Di Stefano’s direction the Institute was moved from the Piazza Capitaniato building, which had become too small, to a larger building in via Beato Pellegrino.


Establishment and development of the department

In 1984, the Institute of Development Psychology was transformed into what is now the Department, in which, in addition to the original groups of developmental psychologists, other research areas were included, such as educational psychology (Piero Boscolo, Giorgio Cherubini, Franco Zambelli, Alberto Argenton), psycholinguistics (Giovanni Battista Flores D’Arcais, Remo Job), social psychology (Luciano Arcuri, Rosanna Trentin, Wanda Zammuner), psychology of reasoning (Alberto Mazzocco), and applied psychology (Luigi Pedrabissi, Salvatore Soresi, Massimo Santinello). Subsequently, the Department saw the inclusion of the area of clinical and dynamic psychology (Maria Grazia Vizziello, Vittoria Costantini, Agostino Racalbuto, Antonio Condini).

The Department housed the Center for the Documentation on the Psychology of Disabilities and, from 1986, the Graduate Program in Developmental and Socialization Processes. The Department directors have been the following professors: Pietro Boscolo (1984-1990); Remo Job (1990-1995); Luciano Arcuri (1995-1996); Alberto Mazzocco (1996-2002); Luciano Arcuri (2002-2005); Pietro Boscolo (2005-2009); Massimo Santinello (2009-2013); and, from 2013, Roberto Dell’Acqua.


New location

Over time, the quality of teaching and research, the network of international collaborations and the number of faculty members all became increasingly relevant evaluation criteria for the university administration. In addition, a very important criterion was the number of students enrolled in psychology that continued to be very high, despite the establishment of new psychology programs in many Italian universities. This fact highlights, at a national level, the strong attractive power of the psychology program in Padova. Therefore, in 1993, an independent School of Psychology was created since up to that point the Psychology Program had been part of the School of Humanities. Both Psychology Departments and, subsequently, the School of Psychology and the Service Department (library and IT service) were moved to a new and larger location in the two buildings of via Venezia. In this location, the Department of Developmental Psychology and Socialization is housed on the first two floors with its administrative offices, the faculty offices, the laboratories and meeting rooms.