Last Friday I wrote about how Jay and Wally seem to develop in fits and starts: “They’ll go long stretches without changing in obvious ways and then all of a sudden it’s like a biological alarm goes off: Time to grow again.”
As I wrote that I knew, of course, that surely I wasn’t the first person to notice this in kids. And indeed, a few hours later I received an email from a family friend who introduced me to research by the Gesell Institute of Child Development which argues that “all children cycle in and out of stages of equilibrium and disequilibrium.”
The research includes the following chart which shows young kids oscillating between equilibrium and disequilibrium every six months (which is close to the 9-month cycle Caroline had picked up on anecdotally):
This article on the stages of development explains that equilibrium is a period of calm consolidation while disequilibrium is a period of creative destruction:
The equilibrium periods can be looked at as a time when your child is consolidating learned skills; practicing what he has struggled to master; they are plateaus in development. The disequilibrium periods often occur as the child is entering a new, quick time of growth and development, when he is mastering new tasks and working on new abilities.
So there are times of relative peace, stability and equilibrium followed by a breaking down of behavior pushing the child into times of struggle and disequilibrium. If your child’s behavior seems to take a turn for the worse, if he seems to be more difficult to manage, it may be that a stage of equilibrium has given way to a stage of disequilibrium.
So what then lies ahead for Jay and Wally? Wally (who turned one yesterday!) is not yet on the chart. They say that for the first 18-months babies cycle between equilibrium/disequilibrium as often as every week. As for Jay, his development is either a little behind, in which case he’s entering his terrible two-and-a-halfs six months late, or he’s a little ahead in which case he’s entering his terrible three-and-a-halfs six months early!