This is the 2007 version. Click here for the 2017 chapter 10 table of contents.

Normal Development: Saltation and Stasis

The findings summarized so far suggest continuity in development. Winner three year olds turn into winner six year olds. Attachment styles and temperament remain consistent, some say, right into adulthood. However, development does not proceed slowly and smoothly: it tends to move in fits and starts.

How does normal development resemble "punctuated equilibrium"?

Many parents have observed that children become irritable before a growth spurt or emergence of new cognitive abilities. Children may give the impression of being on a plateau for a while, not moving forward, and then suddenly they make a jump in ability. Lampl, Veldhuis, and Johnson (1992) documented this pattern in the realm of physical growth, showing that "90-95% of development during infancy is growth-free." The same may well be true of cognitive development. Most change occurs in relatively sudden leaps from one level to another.

The pattern of staying the same then jumping forward is familiar to biologists in the realm of biological evolution, where it is called punctuated equilibrium (Eldridge & Gould, 1972). Punctuated equilibrium occurs during most extended growth processes. Quick change is followed by a period of stability, then another period of change, so that development often appears as a succession of steps or stages.


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