Arnold Gesell, “Pre-School Children Deprived of Parental Care,” 1923

In his very first published mention of adoption, Arnold Gesell describes the nature-nurture study done by Margaret Cobb, his assistant at Yale. According to Gesell, the study implied that most children available for adoption did not have promising educational potential. Gesell did worry, however, about the exceptional bright child who might be deprived of family life.

Miss Cobb concluded that 18 per cent of the children would derive greater benefit from special class training than from ordinary school instruction; that 21 per cent could probably finish fifth or sixth grade and profit by practical continuation instruction; that 35 per cent gave promise of completing the grammar grades, supplemented with vocational and trade instruction; that 7 per cent would be competent to finish a high-school course, and 17 per cent more part of a high-school course; and 2 per cent apparently had mentality that would qualify them for college training. . . .

The more superior a child is, the more urgently does he demand placement in a home with optimum opportunity. The more defective a child is, the less he is harmed by institutional care. Indeed, he may be very much benefited by institutional training. We should not, however, go on the theory that all mentally deficient and border-line children are non-placeable. As a matter of fact, we should develop a differential type of placement, with quasi-probationary safeguards, for large numbers of children who are neither candidates for institutions nor for ordinary foster homes.

Source: Arnold Gesell, “Pre-School Children Deprived of Parental Care,” in The Pre-School Child from the Standpoint of Public Hygiene and Education (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1923), 137-138.
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