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Does Biological Child Development Trump Parental Involvement?

Generations of mid-to-late 20th century parents got their tips on how to stimulate their children's learning through Arnold Gessell's books, Your One-Year-Old through Your Ten-to-Fourteen-Year-Old.

In 2010, many are quick to think that technology has made parental involvement in early childhood learning less necessary or less important. Indeed, it sometimes seems as if a tech-savvy generation is wiser, able to learn at younger ages, and more worldly than earlier generations.

Not so, according to a study released last month by the Gesell Institute for Human Development, named for the pioneering founder of the Yale Child Study Center. The national study, undertaken to determine how child development today compares to Gesell's observations, used key assessment items identical to those Gesell created as the basis for his developmental "schedules" which were published in 1925, 1940, and after his death by colleagues Louise Bates Ames and Frances Ilg in 1964 and 1979.

"People think children are smarter and they are able to do these things earlier than they used to be able to--and they can't," Marcy Guddemi, executive director of the Gesell Institute, said. While all children in the study were asked to complete 19 tasks, results echoed previous Gesell findings.

Although the study shows children have the same developmental schedule they always have, Jerlean E. Daniel, executive director of the National Association for the Education of Young Children, said that research has demonstrated the value of parents' one-on-one conversations to early literacy.

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