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Arnold Gesell, a psychologist, pediatrician, and educator in the 1940s, was very interested in child development. From his numerous observations of children, Gesell formulated a theory known as maturation. This theory stated that developmental changes in a child's body or behavior are a result of the aging process rather than from learning, injury, illness, or some other life experience. Gesell's idea of maturation was rooted in the biological, physiological, and evolutionary sciences. As a result, Gesell centered most of his theory on the power of biological forces, which he felt provided momentum for development to occur. Gesell and his contemporaries proposed that development follows an orderly sequence and that the biological and evolutionary history of the species decides the order of this sequence. Maturation supports the idea that each child's unique genetic and biological makeup determines the rate of development regardless of other potential environmental influences.


Salkind, Neil J. "Arnold Gesell and the Maturational Approach." Theories of Human Development. New York: D. Van Nostrand, 1981.

Shaffer, David R. "The Concept of Development." Developmental Psychology: Childhood and Adolescence, 4th edition. Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole, 1989.

Joan Ziegler Delahunt

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Social Issues ReferenceChild Development Reference - Vol 5