The key to healthy development

Growing up is a step-by-step process, with each developmental task building on the last. But in our modern, hyper-competitive environment, this natural rhythm is being disrupted, says psychologist Madeline Levine.

Madeline Levine, who has been working with children and adolescents for 30 years, is concerned that children today — who are under intense pressure to perform and achieve — may be missing out on important developmental milestones.

Video transcript

“We’ve lost the notion that growing up is a process of scaffolding. And that in order to get — you know like babies don’t walk before they crawl. Children don’t do algebra before they can add. There’s always a process of building upon the last body of knowledge that a child accumulated. And so I think in the process of being so preoccupied with grades, and metrics, and school, and performance, that we’ve forgotten what the real tasks of childhood are. For young children, it’s just sensory exploration — that’s how they learn. For middle age children, it’s about trying different things —not really specializing. Trying your hands at lots of different things, to find out what you are good at, and to learn how to be friends with people. In adolescence, it’s about identity and the beginning of relationships and intimacy. And those things take time. And if all your time — if you’ve got four hours of homework, and practice for your sport, and AP classes, and leadership classes, there’s no time to build the scaffold. And that’s what I think is going wrong.”

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