Child Growth and Development: A Report (1954)
INSTITUTE ON CHILD GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT
HARVARD SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH
June 21-July 2, 1954
Excerpt from Recorder’s Report
WHAT THE DISCUSSION GROUPS SAW AS MAIN THEMES OF THE INSTITUTE Some general themes and concepts both implicit and made explicit throughout the Institute, not related to one phase of development rather than another but illustrated over and over again throughout were noted first by all groups.
1. The innate capacities of the individual are organized in a strong, propelling way toward growth, development and maturation. This process is orderly, goal directed and proceeds as a developmental continuum. There is a general human pattern, and there are patterns of variability in individuals. The capacity of the human organism is great for achievement and maintenance of relatively stable equilibrium through the mechanism of adaptation. Therefore, sequential observation is necessary to individual diagnosis which enables anticipatory guidance of the individual.
2. Rights are derived from basic needs which must be met to insure optimal opportunity for growth and development into healthy individuals and thereby into a healthy, effective society. Research is undertaking surer definition of a) these needs (rights), and b) methods of bringing wider recognition and acceptance of them. The Institute gave effective demonstration of the use of data derived from research approach to provide the factual basis of presumption and assumption inherent in a conceptual base of human behavior, and ways of influencing it positively toward desirable and attainable goals.
3. The biological base of human growth and development was impressively shown. It was clearly seen also that understanding of this biological base of human behavior is essential to comprehending human behavior in any of its manifestations. Instinctual biologic drives in physical and emotional growth and development are interdigitated and dynamic. These are expressed in emotional and social behavior just as they are in changes of size, structure and ability of the person.
4. Experiencing, in the sense of living through, acting out, doing, feeling in their integrated organization and expression is essential to the development process in all of its facts and expressions.
5. Health and disease were shown to be a continuum—evidence both of effort and effect in maintaining equilibrium through the changes that are normal and usual and those that come from the impact of meeting greater stress. Understanding the normal range and sequence of progression of growth and development is therefore essential to recognition and understanding the pathology. Deviations in sequence have greater significance as symptoms of pathology or defects than deviations in rate of development. Tolerance for stress is slowly built. Stress has the greatest damaging potential when the individual is most immature or most rapidly changing. Therefore, the time in the organism’s life cycle when stress occurs is most important.
6. Nature provides additional opportunities to remedy unfavorable experiences. Nature gives individuals later chances to resolve early emotional situations that were damaging. Rather than considering the person doomed to an unsatisfactory living experience, the Institute emphasized the “building up” of this material at such points in life as adolescence and during pregnancy when the person may be able to handle the situation effectively and resolve it. This concept dissolved a sense of futility and stressed the grandeur and resilience of the human being.
7. The family also has an equilibrium which it strives to maintain. When this equilibrium is upset the family readjusts the roles of its members towards the maintenance of equilibrium. Thus the growth and development of each individual is affected by and contributes to the family equilibrium and its adaptive behavior. The Institute gave depth to this concept of the family as a unit, rather than a group of interacting individuals. Since the family is a part of a particular community and of a larger society, both of which are also in constant dynamic change, socio-cultural factors are also clearly operating in each person’s life. They are much in need of clearer definition and understanding. Clearly stated by the Institute’s members, but not made explicit by the leaders, is the responsibility of social workers to contribute toward this effort at definitions and understanding.
8. Separation of the many factors of human growth and development is an artificial device for purposes of improved understanding. Such separation will contribute to understanding human growth and development as long as interrelationship and interaction of these factors is seen as their characteristic behavior.
9. Understanding human growth and maturation, and helping toward its healthy progress were clearly seen as requiring interdisciplinary collaboration. Impressive was the way panel participants from different disciplines each gave his own material consistently relating it to a concept of the whole of which his material was a part. For each one, obviously, his concept of the whole had been created through use of the contribution of each of the collaborating disciplines and a shared philosophy of the importance, needs and strengths of human beings. This made even clearer the already known reality that teams must be developed. This means that they are subject to developmental phases, which are reached through the creative efforts of all, and take place over a period of time. Unless these relationships are entered into responsibly and carried sensitively, effectively integrated teams and concepts of the whole subject matter are not achieved. For each discipline there is the necessity for development of concepts of self as professional persons with responsibility to individuals and to the community.
10. The effectiveness of the physicians’, nurses’ and the nutritionists’ roles in supportive helping and guidance as seen in the Institute, seemed to derive from the fact that many people can be helped by a logical, direct, sensitive, understanding approach to guidance by an expert—one who has knowledge and awareness pertinent to these situations. Group IV defined anticipatory guidance “as knowing what the child will experience in growth and discussing this in advance with the mother so she will not be upset when it occurs. It is the preventive method of giving help in advance of its need.” Group IV also drew 4 attention to the medical social worker’s anticipation with the patient and thus his preparation to meet treatment procedures, changes in regimen, etc.
11. Prevention of problems and abnormality was seen as not always subject to sharp differentiation from therapeutic or corrective measures.
Source: Harriet M. Bartlett Papers. Box 5. Folder 48. University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, Social Welfare History Archives, Minneapolis, MN.