Understanding Your Child: A Developmental Point of View
The Gesell Institute of Child Development in New Haven, Connecticut provides an important framework for understanding how children learn, grow and express themselves in the context of developmental changes and processes. The Gesell Institute of Human Development, named for Arnold Gesell, Ph.D., M.D., has been associated with understanding how children grow and learn since 1950. Dr. Gesell was a pioneer in the field of child growth and development. Beginning early in the 20th century to systematically observe and document infant and child behaviors, he developed a set of norms that illustrate sequential and predictable patterns of growth and development. Dr. Gesell observed and documented a pattern in the way children develop, showing that all children go through similar stages, though each child moves through these stages at his or her own rate. How children act depends on their physical growth, especially the growth of their nervous system, a complicated web of nerve fibers, spinal cord, and brain. As children’s nervous systems grow, their minds develop and their behaviors change. Because of this natural process, children cannot be hurried or pushed to act in more grown-up ways.
The Gesell Institute offers parents and providers an evidence-based model for understanding child development in the context of the environment and relationships. How children act depends on their physical growth, especially brain development. As children’s nervous systems grow, their minds develop and their behaviors change.
There are developmental ages in which life seems easy for the child; he or she seems pulled together and on an even keel. These stages of equilibrium alternate with stages of disequilibrium, when the child has trouble with many areas of living, such as eating, sleeping, responding to other people, and behaving in an acceptable way. Children may alternate between stages of equilibrium, where they feel comfortable and appear to be thriving, and stages of disequilibrium, when the child has trouble with many areas of living, such as eating, sleeping, responding to other people, and behaving in socially unacceptable ways.
This figure shows these alternations as they typically occur for the average child in the early years of life.
Gesell Institute of Child Development programs and publications help parents, teachers, and other professionals understand the ages and stages of childhood. The illustration shown above highlights the Gesell model for communicating the challenges children experience as they move through various developmental processes.