developmental parenting styles

Arnold Gesell’s Contribution to Modern Developmental Parenting Styles: The Freedom To Be You

Arnold Gesell’s Lasting Contributions to Modern Developmental Parenting Styles

“The child’s personality is a product of slow gradual growth. His nervous system matures by stages and natural sequences. He sits before he stands; he babbles before he talks; he fabricates before he tells the truth; he draws a circle before he draws a square; he is selfish before he is altruistic; he is dependent on others before he achieves dependence on self. All of his abilities, including his morals, are subject to laws of growth. The task of child care is not to force him into a predetermined pattern but to guide his growth.”

–Arnold Gesell

Today’s parents have the benefit of utilizing information and experience from a wide variety of developmental parenting styles. One of the pioneers of child development theory and a champion of individuality, Arnold Gesell introduced an entirely new view of child development.

Arnold Gesell is most well-known for his popular book “Infant and Child in the Culture of Today: the Guidance of Development in Home and Nursery School. After receiving his Ph.D from Clark University, in 1906, he served as an assistant professor at Yale University. While there, he developed an interest in physiology and continued his studies and received his M.D. in 1915.

Among his primary interests were the causes and treatment of childhood disabilities. His outstanding research in that field led to the creation of the Clinic of Child Development and a full professorship at Yale. In order to improve observation techniques, he invented the Gesell dome, which was a one-way mirror named for its shape. Under this dome, children could be observed without the distraction of seeing their own reflections. He was one of the first researchers to combine the use of a one-way mirror and a movie camera to record and study children’s responses to stimuli in a controlled environment.

Through observation of approximately 12,000 children, he reached several conclusions. One of his conclusions was that all children experience specific stages of development. 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. Internal factors include genetics, physical development, and personality. External factors include environmental influences such as parents, peers, and society. His research also led to many of the developmental parenting styles of parents today.

Controversy Surrounding the Maturational Theory

Gesell’s Maturational Theory of child development led to the publication of the Gesell Developmental Schedules, which summarized descriptions of each developmental stage and its sequence. Critics of his theories maintained that he relied too heavily on genetic factors to accurately account for the complexity of perception, learning, and behavioral processes. The controversy surrounding his maturational theory still continues. However, Gesell himself was the first to recognize and acknowledge the difficulty of distinguishing between nature and nurture as the primary cause of a developmental delay.

One of the greatest benefits his research had on modern developmental parenting styles was freeing parents from the anxiety caused by rigid, age-based theories of development. Age based theories often had the effect of causing parents to panic or feel that there was something “wrong” if a child did not, for example, take its first step by the age of one year. Famous examples, such as Albert Einstein, who did not speak until the age of four, clearly demonstrate the vast range of differences in stages of development that can occur. Gesell’s theories also helped reduce the social stigma from children whose developmental schedules deviated from what age-based theorists decreed as “the norm”.

The Gesell Institute of Human Development, named after him in 1950, was started by his colleagues from the Clinic of Child Development. One of them was Dr. Frances Ilg, with whom he co-authored two books about developmental parenting styles. Although he was already retired by 1948, his theories are still highly respected today. In addition to championing equal rights and education for those with developmental disabilities, he was also ahead of his time in advocating for a universal childcare system. His theories also remain relevant regarding the current controversy over standardized testing and the development of educational curriculum.

Societies seem to be notoriously slow when it comes to implementing new scientific knowledge. However, there is increasing evidence that his research is resulting in developmental parenting styles that celebrate the unique individuality of every child.

developmental parenting styles

November 13,2015  |

Family Life

How Marie Curie Combined her Own Family Life while Mothering Modern Physics

“I have frequently been questioned, especially by women, of how I could reconcile family life with a scientific career. Well, it has not been easy.”

Called the mother of modern physics , Marie Curie’s biography is an impressive one. She not only invented the term “radioactivity” but discovered two chemical elements, radium and polonium. She was the first woman to win the Nobel Prize in Physics and the first person to ever receive the honor twice, also being awarded the honor in the field of Chemistry. However, she valued knowledge for it’s own sake and was never motivated by the desire for fame and recognition. Albert Einstein said of her

“Marie Curie is, of all celebrated beings, the only one whom fame has not corrupted.”

Marie Curie’s Poverty, Exlusion and Humble Beginnings

As a child, the family life of Marie Curie was clouded by poverty so severe that she lost one of her sisters to typhus and her mother to tuberculosis. Because women weren’t allowed to attend Russian Universities, she became a private tutor, learning everything her wealthy students studied at their universities. She sent part of the money she earned as a governess to help support family life back home and particularly one other sister in Paris, until she could become well established enough to send for her. In 1891, she was finally able to move to Paris to live with her sister and enrolled at the prestigious Sorbonne.

Close Family Life as a Success Factor

Family life -of the extended family rather than the nuclear family- continued to be an important source of support which enabled Marie Curie to continue her research after her marriage to Pierre Curie and the birth of her two daughters, Irene and Eva.

“It became a serious problem how to take care of our little Irène and of our home without giving up my scientific work. Such a renunciation would have been very painful to me, and my husband would not even think of it…So the close union of our family enabled me to meet my obligations.”

After the premature loss of her mother-in-law to cancer, her father-in-law moved in with the family and served as both grandfather and caretaker for the children and helped in the couple’s family life.

Her husband Pierre used their joint Nobel Prize acceptance speech in 1905 to issue a warning about the potential of the destructive power of science with these words

“mankind will derive more good than harm from the new discoveries.”

Tragically, in 1906, just one year after the birth of their youngest daughter Eva, Pierre was struck by a carriage and killed, leaving Marie Curie a widow. Those words of the acceptance speech would prove to be prophetic, as the very scientific discoveries that they were being lauded for would lead to Marie Curie’s untimely death from radiation poisoning.

Despite being a widow with two small children, she took on the task of editing her late husband’s collected works, which she completed in 1908. In 1910, she published her own research in a volume titled “Traité de radioactivité” for which she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Discrimination against women was still such that even after having been awarded two Nobel Prizes, the Academy of Sciences refused to admit her as a member in the organization. She was, however, the first woman to hold a chair at the Sorbonne.

Marie Curie as Mother

Now as a mother, she is reported to have kept records of family life and specifically every stage of her daughters’ development as faithfully as she recorded the results of her scientific experiments.

Her daughters were home-schooled, often by some of the most brilliant scientists in the world. She was able to shape  family life as she saw fit and most conducive.

Her eldest daughter Irene became a scientist and during World War I, worked side by side with her mother using x-ray machines to locate shrapnel in the bodies of wounded soldiers. In 1926, Irene was married to Frédéric Joliot, an assistant at the Radium Institute and together, they continued Marie Curie’s research after her death in 1934. Irene won the Nobel Prize in 1935 for her work in using radioactivity to transmute chemical elements.

Eva, her younger daughter, became a writer and wrote the first of many biographies of her mother, Marie Curie. During the war, using her mother’s name to get access, she courageously visited Africa, Asia and Russia, interviewing soldiers and leaders such She published her interviews in a volume called “Journey Among Warriors” which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. In 1954, she married Henry Richardson Labouisse, Jr. a diplomat who accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of UNICEF as its director in 1965.

The mother of modern physics proved to have created a innovative,  and inventive family life catalyzing a rather large scientific family.

If you are intrigued by women like Marie Curie you can read more here another exceptional role model and mother, Emma Willard.

Family Life
Pierre and Marie Curie at Work

August 24,2015  |