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Mental development of the child and the biological factor of maturation of the body

The pupil of S. Hall, the famous American psychologist A. Gesell (1880-1971) conducted a longitudinal study of the mental development of children from birth to adolescence using repeating slices1. He took significant steps to put the study of the problems of the development of young children on a scientific basis, to trace the phases of the development of individual components of behavior from birth to adolescence.

Gesella was interested in how children's behavior changes with age, he wanted to draw up an approximate timeline for the appearance of specific forms of mental activity, starting with the child's motor skills, his preferences in the classroom, including intellectual interests.

Gesell himself called his research method "biographical laboratory." In the center (laboratory) he created, special equipment was used for the objective recording (photo and filming) of motor skills, speech, social interaction of children, and glass with one-sided permeability (the “Gesell mirror”) was used. He sought to bring the conditions of observation closer to the natural conditions of a child's life. In a specially equipped experimental room, the child was given the opportunity to choose a homework - playing with sand or water, cooking, outdoor games (alone or in conversation with other children). Diagnostics and consultants could observe the characteristic ways of the child’s behavior, and not rely solely on the messages of the parents.

Gesell also used a comparative study of twin development, normal development, and pathology (for example, in blind children). As a result, he compiled an Atlas of baby behavior from 3200 photographs, carefully described the phenomenology of development (growth) of children under 16 years of age, derived indicators of development norms in relation to motor skills, speech, behavior. The Gesell test system formed the basis for practical diagnostics of the child’s mental development in the framework of the normative approach.

According to Gesell's theory of maturation, there is an innate tendency to optimal development: “The innate tendency to optimal development is so ineradicable that the child scoops up everything that he finds useful around himself and suffers to a much lesser extent than might be expected from our ignorance ”1.

Physical growth, motor and mental development go through a series of age stages in a strictly defined sequence. The stages identified by Gesell differ mainly in the pace of development, in quantitative "increase in behavior." The general law of development formulated by Gesell states that the pace of mental development is highest and the achievements are most significant in the first years of life; as the child grows up, there is a slowdown, a decrease in the rate of development. The periodization of age-related development (growth) of Gesell suggests the division of childhood into periods of development according to the criterion of changes in the internal growth rate: from birth to 1 year - the highest "increase" in behavior, from 1 year to 3 years - average and from 3 to 18 years - low rate development. At the center of Gesell's scientific interests was precisely the early

childhood - until the age of three. Gesell considered the development of the child as a form of adaptation to the environment, based on the biological factors of maturation of the body.

Criticizing Gesell's position, L.S. Vygotsky called it “ultrabiologism” and “empirical evolutionism” when the social completely dissolves into the biological, when the entire course of child development obeys the eternal laws of nature1.

The Theory of Maturation A. Gesell

Table 4

A prominent Austrian psychologist C. Bühler (1879-1973), who worked for some time as part of the Würzburg school, created his own concept of the child’s mental development. He intended to present the entire development path from a monkey to an adult cultured person as climbing a single biological ladder, to analyze the process of turning a child (a creature, in his opinion, passive, helpless, devoid of any spiritual movements) - into a person1.

The task of the study, according to Buhler, was to find the eternal, basic, independent from external influences laws of development in its purest form. According to Buhler, a suitable form of experiment to study child development in the first years of life can be borrowed from the field of zoopsychology.
These are “experiments on activity”, “systematic use of artificial situations”, in fact, children solve problems of the type that W. Köhler offered monkeys.

C. Bühler is known as the author of the preformist theory and three steps in the development of the child. Each child in its development naturally passes through stages that correspond to the stages of evolution of animal behavior forms: instinct, training, intelligence. The biological factor (self-development of the psyche, self-development) was considered by him as the main one. Buhler insisted on the biological conditionality of development in childhood, on the hereditary nature of abilities, but emphasized that without exercise, the natural inclinations would not be fully disclosed.

Instinct is the lowest stage of development; a hereditary fund of behaviors that is ready for use and needs only certain incentives. Man's instincts are vague, weakened, split, with great individual differences. A set of ready-made instincts in a child (newborn) is narrow - screaming, sucking, swallowing, protective reflex.

Training (the formation of conditioned reflexes, life-long developing skills) makes it possible to adapt to various life circumstances, is based on rewards and punishments, or on successes and failures. The children's game, according to Buhler, is a natural continuation of the game in animals, occurs at this stage.

Intelligence is the highest stage of development; adaptation to the situation through the invention, discovery, reflection and awareness of the problem situation. Buhler strongly emphasizes the “chimpanzee-like” behavior of children in their first years of life. Typical behavior change in solving intellectual problems by higher monkeys and children: when presenting a new task, the subject demonstrates excitement and performs random tests. reaction ”,“ yeah-experience ”, instant grasp of the essence of things

and relationships transform behavior that turns into a calm, orderly solution to the problem. When the situation repeats, the solution is immediately available.

In the transition from one stage of the development of the psyche to another, emotions also develop, and there is a shift in pleasure from the end of the activity to the beginning. The evolutionarily early correlation of action and emotion is as follows: first the action, and then the pleasure of its result. Further, the action is accompanied by functional pleasure, i.e. pleasure from the process itself. And finally, the representation (anticipation) of pleasure precedes the action itself.

Central to Buhler was the study of thinking, the role of creativity in mental development. So, he proposed a theory of the development of speech in a child as a process of its invention, inventing by a child in the process of communicating with an adult.

Theory of Three Steps by C. Buhler

Table 5

Buhler's main interest is centered around the first years of a child’s life. For him, child psychology is primarily an early childhood psychology, and human development as a whole is identified with the development of the child. Buhler believed that the phases of childhood should be determined by interests and successes in development. Some highlighted

Buhler era: chimpanzee-like age; stage of questions about the names of objects; stage of questions “why”; age of fairy tales; the age of Robinson and others. Buhler considered childhood phases as biological phases of development; the relative characteristic of a child of a certain era and a certain social environment was equated with the absolute, universal, necessary law of development.

L.S. Vygotsky emphasized that in Buhler's theoretical constructions there is a valuable idea that pervades the whole idea of ​​development and the tendency to consider mental development in the general aspect of biological development. However, the desire to directly derive the fullness of mental life, mental functions and forms from biological roots, to find the reasons for the typical successes of a normal child in the structural development of the cerebral cortex fundamentally limits Buhler’s position, making it anti-dialectical. The phylogenesis and ontogenesis of the psyche are equally subject to the laws of biological evolution1.
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Mental development of the child and the biological factor of maturation of the body

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