Robert Belenky grew up in New York’s Greenwich Village during the 1930s and 1940s. Prior to his birth, Belenky’s father was a consultant to the Soviet Jewish land settlement movement and his mother had been a preschool teacher trained in the Dewey tradition. Belenky attended several progressive schools including the Bank Street Kindergarten, the City and Country School, the Little Red Schoolhouse and the Elisabeth Irwin High School.
Belenky has spent his entire adult life working with children in one capacity or another. As a teenager he took summer jobs as a camp counselor. Belenky received his Master’s degree from Cornell University. He later received his doctorate in Clinical Psychology from Teacher’s College at Columbia University and did a postdoctoral fellowship in Child and Family Psychology at the Harvard Medical Center's Judge Baker Child Guidance Clinic. Belenky has taught at Harvard, Boston University and Concordia University and was the founding dean of Goddard College’s Master of Arts in Individualized Studies degree program.
His private practice included fourteen years in his Vermont wilderness setting, The Clearing. Since retirement in 1995, he makes annual visits to Haiti and Russia as part of an informal research project on institutional and community care of children who grow up in the absence of family support.
Robert Belenky is married to Mary Field Belenky, a developmental psychologist. Mary taught at Goddard and is the co-author of the book Women's Ways Of Knowing: The Development Of Self, Voice, And Mind. Robert and Mary have two children, Alice Armen and Michael Belenky, and five grandchildren, Sofia, Max, Ella, Oliver, and Simon.