The measure of a society is its reverence for children.
Arnold Gesell (1880 - 1961) was a psychologist, pediatrician and pioneer in the field of
Child Development. His set of Normal Milestones (Physical Development
Theory) for children is still widely used by paediatricians, psychologists and other professionals who
work with children.
He put forward ideas on the Development of
Identity, and provided evidence that the structure of our emotional world is consolidated during
childhood (see Psychological Aspects of Biodanza).
- Gesell was one of the first psychologists to systematically describe children's physical, social, and
emotional achievements, particularly in the first five years of life.
- He realized the vast importance of both Nature and Nurture,
- He believed that many aspects of human behavior such as Handedness and Temperament were heritable,
- His most notable achievement was his contribution to the Normative Assessment approach to studying
- He recorded the typical sequence and timing of milestone acquisition in each of five streams of
development: gross motor, visual-motor, language, adaptive, and social.
- He observed that in typical children, development is an orderly, timed, and sequential process
that occurs with such regularity that it is predictable (Maturationist Model)
- Using this approach, psychologists observe large numbers of children of various ages and
determine the typical age, or "norms," for which most children achieve various Development Milestones.
- His classic study involved twin girls, both given training for motor skills but one given training
for longer than the other.
- There was no measurable difference in the age at which either child acquired the skills, suggesting
that development had happened in a genetically programmed way, irrespective of the training given.
- A child learns whether or not an adult teaches him/ her, suggesting physical development at least is
- The Maturationist Model quickly lost favor
in the intellectual climate of Jean Piaget, Behaviorism, and information-processing approaches.
Encyclopedia Britannica: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/232022/Arnold-Lucius-Gesell
The Guidance of Mental Growth in Infant and Child, 1930:
Infant Behavior - Its Genesis and Growth, 1934:
The Psychology of Early Growth Including Norms of Infant Behavior and a Method Of
Genetic Analysis, 1938: http://www.archive.org/download/psychologyofearl009476mbp/psychologyofearl009476mbp.pdf
The First Five Years of Life - A Guide to the Study of the Preschool Child, 1940:
The Method of Co-Twin Control, 1942: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/95/2470/446.full.pdf
Arnold Gesell, Frances L. Ilg and Glenna E. Bullis,
Vision - Its Development in Infant and Child,
Arnold Gesell, Frances L. Ilg and Louise Bates Ames,
Youth: The Years From Ten To Sixteen, 1956:
Esther Thelen and Karen E Adolph,
Arnold L. Gesell: The Paradox of Nature and Nurture.,
Developmental Psychology, 28(3), 368-380, May 1992:
Walter R Miles,
Arnold Lucius Gesell (1904-1990): A Biographical Memoir, National Academy of
Jean Piaget: philosopher, natural scientist and developmental psychologist,
known for his work studying children, his theory of Cognitive Development and for his
epistemological view called Genetic