The Progression-Regression Hypothesis (PRH) is a widely accepted framework for understanding human development, created by Arnold Gesell in the early 20th century (Gesell, 1940). The hypothesis proposes that development is a gradual, continuous process, moving from simpler to more complex forms of behavior. It also suggests that each stage of development is a result of a child’s interaction with his or her environment, and that the child is not simply passively absorbing information. The PRH has been used to explain a variety of developmental phenomena, from language acquisition to motor development.

The PRH has been applied to many different domains of development. In the area of language acquisition, the PRH suggests that children acquire language in a sequence of stages, beginning with simple babbling and progressing to more complex utterances (Gesell, 1940). Additionally, the PRH has been used to explain motor development, as children progress from simpler to more complex motor skills (Gesell, 1940). Similarly, the PRH has been used to explain the development of cognitive skills such as memory and problem solving, as children progress from simple to more complex tasks (Gesell, 1940).

Despite its wide acceptance, the PRH has been subject to criticism. Some researchers have argued that development is not necessarily sequential, and that children may skip stages of development (Gelman, 2003). Additionally, researchers have argued that the PRH does not take into account individual differences in development, as some children may develop more quickly than others (Gelman, 2003). Finally, researchers have argued that the PRH does not explain how children are able to achieve a given stage of development, as it does not account for environmental influences on development (Gelman, 2003).

Overall, the Progression-Regression Hypothesis has been widely accepted as a framework for understanding human development. However, it is also subject to criticism, and further research is needed to better understand the role of environment in the development of children.


Gelman, R. (2003). The essential child: Origins of essentialism in everyday thought. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Gesell, A. (1940). The first five years of life: A guide to the study of the preschool child. New York, NY: Harper and Brothers.

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