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Arnold Gesell (1880-1961)

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Prior to the early twentieth century, scientific observations of children were not common. Arnold 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. In fact, the developmental norms established by Ge-sell and his colleagues are still used by pediatricians and psychologists today.

Gesell was born and raised in Alma, Wisconsin, and received a doctorate in psychology in 1906 from Clark University. In 1911 he began a faculty position in education at Yale University. While fulfilling the requirements of his teaching and research position, he also worked toward a doctorate in medicine, which he earned in 1915. While at Yale, Gesell established and directed the Clinic of Child Development, where children's achievements in terms of physical and psychological development were observed and measured. Gesell's observations of children allowed him to describe developmental milestones in ten major areas: motor characteristics, personal hygiene, emotional Arnold Gesell was one of the first psychologists to systematically describe children's achievements in terms of physical and psychological development. (UPI/Corbis-Bettmann) expression, fears and dreams, self and sex, interpersonal relations, play and pastimes, school life, ethical sense, and philosophic outlook. His training in physiology and his focus on developmental milestones led Gesell to be a strong proponent of the "maturational" perspective of child development. That is, he believed that child development occurs according to a predetermined, naturally unfolding plan of growth.

Gesell's most notable achievement was his contribution to the "normative" approach to studying children. In this approach, psychologists observed large numbers of children of various ages and determined the typical age, or "norms," for which most children achieved various developmental milestones.

When Gesell retired from Yale in 1948, his colleagues established a private institution in his name in New Haven, Connecticut, called the Gesell Institute of Child Development. During the 1970s and 1980s Gesell's research prompted many books and articles to be published by researchers associated with the institute. These writings became popular with parents and teachers because they described the typical behaviors to be expected of children at each age; however, Gesell's writings have been criticized by other psychologists because he did not readily acknowledge that there are individual differences in child development, and his focus on developmental norms implied that what is typical for each age is also what is desirable. Nevertheless, his practice of carefully observing, measuring, and describing child development created a foundation for subsequent research that described both average developmental trends and individual differences in development.

Bibliography

Crain, William. Theories of Development: Concepts and Applications, 4th edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2000.

Thelen, Esther, and Karen Adolph. "Arnold Gesell: The Paradox of Nature and Nurture." In Ross Parke, Peter Ornstein, John Rieser, and Carolyn Zahn-Waxler eds., A Century of Developmental Psychology. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 1994.

Thomas, R. Murray. Comparing Theories of Child Development, 5th edition. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2000.

Publications by Gesell

Gesell, Arnold, Francis Ilg, Louis Bates Ames, and Glenna Bullis. The Child from Five to Ten. New York: Harper and Row, 1977.

Sherry L. Beaumont

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almost 6 years ago

I'm taking a Child Development class and writing a paper about this person. This was helpful and I'll definitely be using and citing this as a part of my research, thanks! =]

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almost 4 years ago

Hi, i am doing a research on arnold gesell and i haven't gotten any information on him since i found this article. it help me alot. as i am studying to be a early childhood techer.

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almost 5 years ago

Hi, i am doing a research on arnold gesell and i haven't gotten any information on him since i found this article. it help me alot. as i am studying to be a early childhood techer.

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almost 5 years ago

Hi, I am a child studies university student, and Arnold Gesell is a very important theorist for us to look at, as he produced the development charts we now all refer to when looking at child development. This page was evry useful to me when writing an essay aboput child development a few months ago, I got a great mark, thank you!!

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almost 3 years ago

I am very glad to read this beautiful information about Arnold's theory on child's physical growth and motor development. Its very useful to me as a University Lecturer.

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over 5 years ago

i work in a magazine dedicated to parents and children and i've never heard off Arnold Gesell. Is was on a school meeting that a teacher mentioned the name and I become curious. This helped me very much on my research.

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almost 6 years ago

thank you for this excellent information.i am doing a report on Arnold Gessell and i didn't find the info that i needed and when i did find it i made no sense until i stumbled upon this little link. i appreciate this very much.

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over 3 years ago

Audio was amaizng helped me understand. im disabled and it really helped me.

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over 5 years ago

Dr. Gesell's work is as accurate today as it was 80 years ago. We as educators, parents, researchers, etc, can learn valuable information about children today

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almost 6 years ago

I have been lookingfor information on Gesell for a few days now as I am studing to be an early childhood teacher. I have text bookson theorists but there was nothing about this person. Thank you for this information.

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over 1 year ago

Good work! Your post is an excellent example of why I keep coming back to read your excellent quality content
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about 2 years ago

Arnold Gesell (1880-1961)

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about 2 years ago

As a retired kindergarten teach I thoroughly agree with the Gesell Child Development assesments for children entering kindergarten. They are righ on in predicting developmental ages, and what the child needs in a school program. In the late 60s my district participated in Gesell workshops, and set up developmental kindergarten programs; pre-kindergarten, regular kindergarten, pre- firts, etc. These were extremely successful. My school, Alisal, followed the students into middle school, and found that the children we had placed in pre-kindergarten (given an extra year), were doing well ath their appropriate grade leve. The children who were not so successful had been "retained' in otherell trainingschools who had not had Gesell training. Some were retained when they really had needed further testing for learning disabiloitites or other atypical problems, and were not just "young".

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11 months ago

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over 2 years ago

This was very useful but you got it all wrong. It was not Aronld Gesell who did all these findings,it was none other than Mark Twain,which by the way would be 173 years old if he were still alive.

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about 1 year ago

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over 1 year ago

This is true that the first five years of the children are very important to build their character. discount holiday packages

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over 1 year ago

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over 1 year ago

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