This article seeks to augment understanding of the rise of psychological interpretations of the child in New Zealand, and suggest refinements to McDonald’s typology, with reference to changing religious values and priorities in the years before World War II. In particular, it considers patterns of religious education, with special reference to changing representations of Jesus for children during this time. Consideration of this material indicates that psychological approaches to childhood played an important role in shaping religious education throughout these years. Though noteworthy in itself, this influence highlights the extent to which interest in scientific and psychological understandings of the child had been growing more generally since the beginning of the twentieth century. Indeed, it provides a broader context for understanding the post‐war expansion of psychological approaches to children. Insofar as psychological interpretations of childhood were paradigmatic after 1945, this occurred because such approaches had been disseminated and acquired sufficient legitimacy in preceding years.
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