Essay Example about Arnold Gesell and His Theory of Development (2023)

Background and Upbringing

Arnold Gesell was born on June 21, 1880, in Alma, Wisconsin. Having been born to parents who greatly valued education, Gesell had a great desire to become a teacher and therefore, in 1903, he graduated from the University of Wisconsin from which he became a high school teacher and a principle. In the year 1906, he joined the graduate school at Clark University and received a Ph.D. degree. According to him, medical knowledge was an essential aspect for him to research child development. As a result, Gesell joined Yale University and in 1915, received a Doctorate in Medicine (M.D.) (Thelen & Adolph, 1994).

Essay Example about Arnold Gesell and His Theory of Development (1)

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Despite the fact that he taught child hygiene and psychology early in his career, Gesell is up to the modern day today renowned for being an American psychologist and pediatrician who made a significant impact on the scientific investigation of child development through his research on the process of human development right from birth through adolescence.

In the realm of his career, Gesell conducted one of the first quantitative studies in human development and primarily focused on young children. Gesell's studies resulted in the Gesell Development Schedules that have been a basis for current scales of early development (Thelen & Adolph, 1994). His researches were primarily centered on helping parents and educators understand child development, and as a result, he was regarded as the expert on child development and childrearing. To a broader perspective, the United States adoption policies were influenced by Gesell's work making his maturational theory (1925) one of his most significant contribution to child development and which continues to impact American education up to the modern day today.

Explanation of the Theory of Development

The maturation theory of child development is primarily based on biology and heredity. This theory focuses on the both the expected course and the rate of growth in average and exceptional children. The Maturation theory is based on Gesell's observation of the patterns in a sequential development in children. This means that the concept of maturation is notably influenced by two primary sources that are the child's environment and their genetics. Besides, this theory substantiates that all children go through similar and predictable sequences, but the pace in which each child moves through the different sequences is different (Gesell, 1929). In a similar regard, Gesell participated in various studies such as the twin studies which stated that efforts to speed up a child's mortal development would typically produce only small effects and differences. However, in this regard, the child's psychological being is considered as the primary driver of their development.

Gesell argued that the maturation process is composed of both the intrinsic and the extrinsic factors. The intrinsic elements, for instance, consists of genetics, temperament, learning styles, personality and also physical and mental growth. On the other hand, the external factors that influence this type of development are such as, family background, cultural influences, early experiences and health conditions. Nonetheless, this theory specifically takes the stance that there is no significant environmental impact on the child's development. In this regard, the theory states that in the cases where the child suffers from developmental problems, these problems are highly attributed to the individual child and not considered to be as a result of the child's circumstances or the environment. According to the theory, the only things that are truly needed by the child are love, care, food and, also a roof over their heads.

Therefore, within this particular child development theory, children are expected to exhibit various behaviors concerning the maturation timetable.

Applications/ Examples of the Theory

Behavioral Maturation

For an introverted or an antisocial child the theory states that it is important to let the child be, other than implementing him or her into a group setting.

Physical Maturation

Some physical maturation examples of this theory are such as;

Opening and closing of the hands

Grabbing things become a part of the maturation process

A Commonly Adapted Stage of Human Development


Usually the first year of life. It is considered the most important stage of child development. Better known as the age of trust vs. mistrust, this stage of development extends from birth to about 18 months of age. Besides, at this stage, all that the newborn baby needs is nourishment which if administered and fulfilled appropriately, the infant learns to trust other people and also develops confidence. On the contrary, if the infant does not receive the needed support and care, they tend to develop mistrust which may affect their personality later in their life.

Biblical Basis for Each Stage

During infancy, the infant usually is vibrant with what seems to be an unlimited source of energy. At this stage, babies represent the inner dynamo of humanity. Based on this context, the Bible is so insightful in addressing the needs of mankind and states that there are four main areas of human development that every conscientious person ought to give attention to. These stages include the physical, social, intellectual and the spiritual stages.

Psychological Implications

At this stage, the infant's psychological implications refer to how their brain works, how they respond to stress and also their ability to form a trusting relationship. With regard to the psychology of the infant, it is at this stage that the infant's brain undergoes the most dramatic growth, which in turn sets the stage for both the emotional and the social development. With regard to the psychological development of the infant, it is at this stage that language begins to blossom, relates their body language to the basic motor abilities, the child's thinking becomes more complex and above everything else, the child begins to understand what they feel as well as the feelings of those around them.

Social Implications

During the infancy stage of development, healthy social growth is primarily centered on creating attachments with those close to them, such as parents, and caregivers. According to Erickson, this is usually the trust versus the mistrust stage in which the babies will develop some form of trust and love for their caregivers depending on the adequacy of the love and nurturing that they receive from their environment. Conversely, if the child is not nurtured adequately by those surrounding her at this stage, the chances are that the infant's social growth implications will be characterized by mistrust and a form of indifference for people and the world they are not given those resources (VMC, 2014).Physical Implications

The physical implications regarding development refer to an increase in the infant's baby size and organs. At this stage, children grow rapidly, and they can move their limbs and especially can grip objects using the fingers. As they continue to grow, the kids begin using their whole body such as pushing the body up, rocking or even sitting up without assistance.


Gesell, A. (1929). Maturation and infant behavior pattern. Psychological Review, 36(4), 307-319. doi:10.1037/h0075379

Thelen, E., & Adolph, K. (1994). Arnold L. Gesell: The paradox of nature and nurture. Developmental Psychology, 28, 368-380.

VMC. (2014, April 7). Parenting, the Social Environment and its Effects on Child Development | myVMC. Retrieved from

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What is an example of Arnold Gesell theory? ›

For example, he speculated that a child who grows slowly might be cautious, even-tempered, and patient; whereas a child who develops more quickly might be more outgoing, happy, and quick to react. Gesell also believed that a child's environment should be adjusted to his or her temperament and growth style.

What is the summary of Arnold Gesell's theory? ›

Gesell emphasized that growth always progresses in a pattern through predictable stages or sequences. Sequential development begins within the embryo and continues after birth. While an individual progresses through these stages at his or her own pace, the sequence remains the same.

What is Gesell's major contribution to what we know about children and child development today? ›

Over a century ago, Gesell began creating a map for child development and learning. His main contribution to child development was identifying the relationship between behavior and brain—in other words, between what children do and how their brains grow.

What is one of the main contributions of Gesell that still impacts us today? ›

Gesell was the first to conclude that children develop not by age, but in stages. His research led to his belief that while those stages are the same for all children, the pace at which they reach each stage of development is not dependent upon their ages, but a combination of internal and external factors.

What is an example of a developmental theory? ›

Examples are the psychoanalytic theory of psychosexual development, Erikson's eight stages of psychosocial development, learning theories that stress early conditioning, and role theories that focus on the gradual acquisition of different roles in life.

What are Gesell's stages of development? ›

These six stages included: smooth, break up, sorting out, inwardizing, expansion and fitting together. According to Gesell, children progress through the same stages, although at different times, and that both internal and external forces impact this development.

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