Arnold Gesell (1880–1961), a pediatrician and psychologist, is the theorist most associated with the maturational theory of development, even though Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778) first mentioned nature’s inner plan or timetable. The primary characteristics of the maturational theory include the following:

  • The child develops biologically in a predetermined order from within, unfolding in fixed, predictable sequences or stages.
  • Every child goes through the same series of fixed sequences, but each child has his or her unique rate or pace.
  • The child is a product of his or her environment, but playing a larger role are genes and human nature: heredity (body type), temperament, culture, health, and intelligence.

The process of biological maturation actually starts at conception with the fertilized embryo. While the cells are rapidly dividing and reproducing, every child ...

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