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).

Normal Milestones (Physical Development Theory)

  • 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,

Normative Assessment

  • His most notable achievement was his contribution to the Normative Assessment approach to studying children.
    • 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.

Twins Study

  • 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 largely pre-programmed.
  • The Maturationist Model quickly lost favor in the intellectual climate of Jean Piaget, Behaviorism, and information-processing approaches.