Arnold Gesell: a biography of this psychologist, philosopher and pediatrician

Arnold Gesell was an American psychologist, philosopher and pediatrician who studied child development. His performances as a teacher and writer between the 1920s and 1950s quickly positioned him as one of the leading experts on parenting and parenting in North America.

However, he is best known for having developed a very important research method for modern psychology: the Gesell camera. In this article, we review Arnold Gesell’s biography, as well as some of the impact his work has had on the studies of child development and how he invented the observation camera that bears his name.

    Biography of Arnold Gesell: doctor, philosopher and educator

    Arnold Gesell (1880-1961) was born in Wisconsin, United States. He was the oldest of 5 siblings, children of a photographer and a teacher, both very interested in early childhood education. With the intention of becoming a teacher as well, Gesell he trained from an early age with educator Edgar James Swift, Which quickly detected Gesell’s interest in psychology and child rearing.

    He then began to specialize in other disciplines. For example, he earned a degree in philosophy in his hometown in 1903, while training in the psychology lab at the University of Wisconsin as well as in history and education.

    He obtained his doctorate in philosophy in 1906 and eventually studied medicine at the University of Wisconsin, completing his doctorate in 1915. He soon became an assistant professor at Yale University, where he founded a child development clinic and worked as a school psychologist in Connecticut.

    In the latter city, Arnold Gesell began by studying what the development of children with disabilities looked like, and then I came to the conclusion that in order to understand this, one had to first understand what the development of children without disabilities looked like. This is what ultimately led him to develop certain principles of child development.

      Some contributions from Arnold Gesell

      Gesell’s influence stems from an idea that quickly became popular and remains in the social imagination to this day: the widely held belief that there is some sort of “timeline” in child development. In other words, that is to say a series of age-related stages characterized by typical behaviors.

      If some previous authors, such as Sigmund Freud, had already proposed theories on the development of the child and its stages, it is the contributions of Arnold Gesell that have positioned themselves as a point of reference on the subject, at least in his time. .

      His work revolves around the proposition that the maturation process can be aided or accompanied by a carefully designed environmentSo he quickly switched to education.

      During his research, Gesell focused on different points in the child’s development, as well as different characteristics. Some of the most important areas were motor development, adaptive behavior, and psychosocial behavior.

      theoretical influences

      Gesell believed that these stages through which childhood passes reproduce stages through which all of the development and evolution of the human species has passed. This means his theory of child development it is strongly influenced by evolutionary theories which were very popular in the United States and Europe at the time.

      His theory is also influenced by studies that took place in the early twentieth century, where medicine began to elevate the goal of getting to know children better, and at the same time, there was a heated debate about innate learned binarism. .

      Gesell believed that much of children’s personalities and behaviors are hereditary, but there is no need to rush into a diagnosis, especially in the case of people with disabilities.

      It coincided that around this time, Gesell came to study medicine at Yale University, where he was assigned a room in a pediatric clinic. He was tasked with dealing with various childhood issues. Thanks to his previous training as an educator and psychologist, he emphasized the bond with the parents of the children he was caring for, which was also seen as something new, as this method was a little more like the education than medicine.

      Outraged, move away from psychometric methods which at the time were very popular and focused on intelligence assessment. Gesell preferred more qualitative methods, for example based on clinical observation of each child and each area.

      Gesell’s camera

      Taking as an influence his photographer father, Gesell used many technological resources in the development of his theories. For example, frequently used cameras and video cameras as well as one-way mirrors to be able to observe in detail how children are developing.

      In reality, this one-way mirror quickly became an observation camera, Which consists in separating two rooms by a one-way mirror. People in a room are reflected in this mirror, while people who are in the room continuously are not only not reflected, but they can see what is happening in the group.

      The purpose of this observation camera is that researchers can observe what is happening in the room to the side, Without making the other shy, that is to say, it allows him to act more spontaneously and naturally. This camera is to this day used as a very important method of research and study, and is known as the Gesell camera.

      main works

      Some of his major works are The Mental Growth of the Preschool Child (1925) and The Child From Five to Ten (The Child From Five to Ten)., From 1977.

      In co-author with other authors, In both books, Gesell develops the idea of ​​the stages through which childhood passes.. They are also considered two of the classic works of developmental psychology.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Weizmann, F. (2012). Arnold Gesell: The maturationist. In Pickren, W., Dewsbury, D. and Wertheimer, M. (Eds.). Portraits of pioneers in developmental psychology. Psychology Press: New York.

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