Margaret McFarland

Margaret McFarland and Fred discuss the relationship with the viewing child, 1967

Dr. Margaret McFarland was a professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and the Director of the Arsenal Family and Children’s Center in Pittsburgh which she co-founded with Dr. Benjamin Spock and Erik Erikson.

Dr. McFarland had been Fred Rogers’ mentor when he attended graduate classes in Child Development at the University of Pittsburgh in the early 1960’s. As she was guiding his observations and work with children at the Arsenal, he knew that her understanding of children and families would be invaluable when he began to develop Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.


For nearly 22 years, from 1966 until she died in 1988, they met almost weekly to discuss themes for the Neighborhood programs. In those sessions, as she did in her classes, she would offer stories of children and families to illustrate the child development theory behind the themes he was dealing with, like fears or competition or food or anger or celebrations. She was often delightfully surprised to see the songs or scripts he created out of their meetings, and the ways that Fred was able to translate complicated child development theories into easy to understand and affirming messages – life lessons that resonate with all of us, young and old. Modest and content to remain behind the scenes, Dr. McFarland proudly referred to her role as “counterpart to the creative person.” 

There is no act in Mister Rogers. How he behaves toward children on television is the same as how he behaves toward children off camera.
Dr. Margaret McFarland