You may have come across the theory that children develop in mental leaps or so-called Wonder Weeks.
However, there is strong evidence that children do not follow a strict schedule of development. Instead, each child develops at their own pace.
What are mental leaps all about?
The theory tries to explain how babies pass through several phases of mental development, often referred to as “mental leaps”, which help them develop an awareness of the world around them. Going by the theory, certain behaviors that babies exhibit are manifestations of a developmental phase the child is passing through at that moment.
Where does the theory come from?
This theory was propagated by a Dutch couple named Hetty van de Rijt and Frans Plooj, a few decades ago. The couples studied development growth in chimpanzees, and they used that knowledge to propound some theories on the mental developmental changes in the human baby.
What is the theory’s main idea?
The theory argues that the reason why your baby behaves cranky is that they’re in the mental developmental stage, which is a stage where they become aware of their environment. The strangeness makes them regress and get frustrated — thus, they act miserable, clingy, and irritable.
In total, there are at least 10 such mental leaps from the age of five weeks until the child is 20 months old. The so-called Wonder Weeks schedule shows what to expect from your child each week.
The flaws of the idea of mental leaps
The greatest misconception about mental leaps is that your baby’s mental development occurs in a fixed schedule — this point of view is wrong as your baby’s development occurs in a continuum. Babies develop at a unique pace that is usually determined by their genetics, environment, diet, and their interaction with adults.
Another misconception is that children always behave cranky because they’re experiencing a mental leap. There is little evidence for that. Your baby may cry for many other reasons — uneasiness, tiredness, hunger, headache, and other less explicit reasons such as not being able to communicate.
What does science say?
To expect your child to experience mental leaps at a fixed time interval will oppose results from numerous researchers about infant growth and development. It is, therefore, necessary to discard the perception that mental leap schedules are based on scientific findings. The theory has no serious scientific backing to prove that it works in infants; as such, it cannot be trusted.