Child Development Research

The International Study of Organized Persecution of Children ( ISOPC )
The Kestenberg Movement Profile ( KMP )
The Gross Breesen Project ( GBP )

Child Development Research

Child Development Research is an umbrella organization dedicated to restoring and preserving the mental health of children, see especially those who have suffered under the extreme trauma of organized persecution. This includes documenting patterns of normal child development and the disruptions, distortions, and adaptations which occur during and in the aftermath of trauma. The organization is dedicated to discovering and promulgating approaches which can ameliorate the long term effects on victims of past, present, and future mass dehumanization. One of our points of focus is nonverbal expressions of normal and disrupted child development.

We work with a professional staff with the strong support of volunteers, survivors, community resources, and collaboration with other Holocaust related groups and educational organizations.


• To develop and support projects which further normal child development and aim at prevention of childhood disorders particularly those associated with extreme trauma.

• To conduct interdisciplinary, comparative studies of child development both under “normal” and extreme conditions.

• To validate non-verbal techniques of assessment of personality and treatment of mental health disorders.

• To continue our world-wide efforts to seek out and interview those child survivors of the Nazi Holocaust and later persecutions of children who have been silent To continue to systematically analyze the patterns of persecution of children under the Nazis, to assess the adaptation of children to extreme trauma, and to understand modes of recovery in the aftermath.

• To collaborate with and train mental health professionals who are treating child survivors of trauma and their families.

• To encourage and organize creative endeavors of child survivors in the visual and performing arts, writing of poetry, literature, memoirs and public speaking.

• To compile and publish a comprehensive history of the persecution of children during the Nazi era.

• To assist educators in the teaching about the history of persecution of children during the Nazi era and other periods of child persecution.

The International Study of Organized Persecution of Children

The International Study of Organized Persecution of Children (ISOPC) was founded in 1981 in response to the growing concerns among child survivors of the Holocaust that their experiences and their traumas had been neglected. Dr.Judith Kestenberg, healing psychiatrist, check and Milton Kestenberg, prescription an attorney involved in German reparations for victims of the Holocaust, founded ISOPC to focus on the unique experiences of child survivors.

As the name of the project indicates, its mission goes beyond the study of Holocaust child survivors to include study of child survivors of past, present, and future organized persecutions. (i.e. Bosnia, Rwanda, Darfur, Timor, Kosovo, Uganda, and other regions around the world.). However, the project has focused most of its energy on documenting the experiences, histories, and psychological processes undergone by child survivors of the Nazi Holocaust. Through the use of specially trained interviewers, over 1500 interviews have been conducted. Over 300 of these interviews are available on CDs at Hebrew University archives in Jerusalem Israel.

The interviews serve as the basis for historical and psychological research that allows us to examine how children of different ages and backgrounds responded to varied conditions during the period of persecution. What we learned has given us the ability to contribute to the development of better social and psychological treatments for other child survivors of major trauma.

Child survivors are a unique group
Lessons to be learned from childhood trauma

To learn more about ISOPC, click on a topic below.


The Kestenberg Movement Profile

A History the Kestenberg Movement Profile

The Kestenberg Movement Profile profile was developed by Dr. Judith Silberpfennig Kestenberg and her colleagues after years of observation of children and adults at The Sands Point Study Group on Long Island, New York. Its structure and focus are based on the psychological profile developed by Anna Freud, with a strong emphasis on child development. Its movement language is based on the Laban System of Movement Notation with modifications adaptive to its psychological focus. The goal is to find a nonverbal modality from which to gain psychological insight without reliance on words and tone in cases where the absence of words and tone prevent psychologically informed interpretations. With Dr. Kestenberg’s system, non-verbal or barely verbal patients like infants, small children, and uncommunicative adults can be analyzed by the way they move.

Kesternberg, who was born in Tarnow, Poland, and trained in medicine, neurology and psychiatry in Vienna,  came to New York in 1937 and completed her training at Bellevue Hospital and the New York Psychological Institute. While in Vienna, she was strongly influenced by Charles Darwin’s 1872 studies of facial expressions and body movements as a means of revealing a person’s true emotions.

In the early 1950’s there were few models for the study of nonverbal behavior. Kestenberg, a child psychologist, had difficulties creating her own method of movement notation until she was introduced to the work of Rudolph Laban and Warren Lamb (Laban & Lawrence, 1947: Laban, 1960) and Warren Lamb’s (1965) interpretation of their use and structure (Ramsden, 1973).

Laban and Lamb conceived of and generated a system of dance notation and movement analysis that provided a system that qualitatively and quantitatively perceives and describes elementary components of movement. The system is applicable to many fields of study for it is the process itself that matters, “not the end product or goal of the action” (Bartenieff and Lewis, 1980 p.ix). The movement components described by Laban are readily observable and the interpretive scheme is logical and accessible to any lay person.

Kestenberg and her colleagues elaborated upon the Laban system to reflect the ways in which movement patterns evolve within the context of development. To make this new profile readily available for psychological assessment, they highlighted the correspondences they discovered between movement qualities and Anna Freud’s developmental scheme (1965).

Though often outside of our awareness, all people regularly rely on nonverbal cues to assess the feelings and personality traits of others. We each have our own informal lexicon of movement patterns that becomes an untaught, yet essential, reference guide, enabling us to respond and adjust to others. Freud (1905) pointed out that patients unconsciously reveal inner anxieties and feelings through body movements. Psychologist A. Lowen suggested that “even when a person tries to hide his true feelings by some artificial postural attitude, his body belies the post in the state of tension that is created. The body does not lie (Lowen 1971 p.100). The Rapper Jay-Z wrote that in wordless encounters, we watch body language to learn intentions of others, especially in life and death situations.

If the mind, emotions, and body are a closely integrated, mutually interacting system, then it is reasonable to conclude that we could gain information about the mind by observing the body. The body and its manner of moving reveals aspects of current feelings and emotions, and can also give us insight into an individual’s past. As Loman and Foley wrote in 1996, “…experiences get stored in the body and are reflected in body movement.” A person who feels rejected may develop a hollow, narrowed body attitude which expresses and reinforces such feelings throughout life. Because physical and emotional experiences leave long-term traces upon the way people hold themselves and move, the study of movement opens a door to the study of patterns of early development, coping strategies and personality.

Movement qualities studied in the KMP reflect individuals’ styles of learning and cognition, expression of needs and feelings, modes of relating, styles of defense, and dynamics for coping with the environment. The psychoanalytically-oriented analyst can use the KMP to access information about drives, object relations, ego development, the superego, and defense mechanisms. The KMP is equally accessible to those with other orientations and can be used to pursue varied research goals.

History and Methodology

By 1953, Kestenberg began longitudinal studies of the movement patterns of three children, and followed them for 20 years. She discovered persistent qualities and developmental patterns. Later, her investigations into the role of nonverbal behavior in treatment and assessment were pursued further as a collaborative effort at the Sands Point Movement Study Group. Kestenberg made important clinical and theoretical contributions through her observation of infants, children and adults.

The KMP evolved during more than 30 years of research by Kestenberg and her colleagues (Kestenberg 1975, Kestenberg & Sossin, 1979, Kestenberg Amighi, Loman, Lewis, & Sossin, 1999). Their findings linked the dominance of specific movement patterns with particular developmental phases and psychological functions. Movement observation complemented Kestenberg’s (1975, 1976, 1980a, 1980b) investigations of gender studies, pregnancy and maternal feelings, and of obsessive-compulsive disorder. The dominant focus of much of this research was the development of techniques for the primary prevention of emotional disorders. The KMP systematizes the mind/body links we use in our daily lives and singles out key movement qualities and patterns with the most psychological significance for describing, assessing and interpreting nonverbal behavior.

The Importance of Understanding Movement: We Are Embodied

Because both physical and emotional experiences leave long-term traces on the way people hold themselves and move, the study of movement opens a door to the study of patterns of early development, coping strategies, and personality configurations.

The use of movement analysis for psychological assessment and treatment rests on our understanding of the mind, emotions and body as closely integrated, mutually interacting systems. “When traumatic events or obstacles impede the normal growth process, maladaptive [and adaptive] experiences get stored in the body and are reflected in body movement” (Loman and Foley, 1996, p.4). A person who feels rejected may develop a hollow, narrowed body attitude which expresses and reinforces such feelings. A small child whose caregiver has a hollowed torso may accommodate to it and develop a similar body attitude and associated feelings. This mind/body integration means that not only does the way we move reflect the psyche, but the way we move can affect the psyche as well. We have learned, for example, that mental imagery can improve movement skills and that movement can affect cognitive and emotional patterns (Eddy, 1992).

What does this mean in practice?

The Kestenberg Movement Profile (KMP) provides

1) a Laban-derived method of labeling and categorizing elementary movement qualities,

2)  a system for psychological assessment through the observation and analysis of movement,

3)  a theoretical framework which guides the interpretation of movement repertoires in developmental terms, and

4) a framework for the prevention and treatment of a wide variety of psychological, physical, and cognitive problems.

Using the KMP, an observer notates the frequencies of specified movement qualities of a mover. These qualities are organized into nine different categories (termed diagrams) which relate to qualities such as affects, needs and drives, coping mechanisms and self feelings. The data collected is then represented graphically in eight diagrams. From these, the analyst can view a descriptive profile of the subject observed. The analyst can also develop hypotheses which will help guide a treatment or guidance plan.

The KMP’s information about intrapersonal psychological functioning is applicable to all age groups; some patterns may even be studied in the womb (Loman, 1992). Any two or more profiles (e.g., mother and child) can be compared with each other to yield information about areas of interpersonal conflict and harmony.

Those who are interested in specific questions rather than a comprehensive profile may collect data on just certain types of movement qualities, e.g. relating to learning styles, or responsiveness to stimuli in the environment or modes of interpersonal relationships.

The Foundations of Maternality in girls and boys

As a result of additional research, the group discovered the existence of two more phases of development, urethral and inner-genital, amplifying the original Freudian model and demonstrating the basis of maternality and paternality of all children. By inviting both fathers and mothers to attend the Center, the group was able to help parents build upon what was then called the feminine qualities in men and masculine qualities of women, which today we speak of in terms of inner and outer-genital phases of development.

Kestenberg postulated additional phases characterized by distinct movement patterns, each of which has distinct psychological correlates. One of these phases, the “inner genital phase,” an early childhood phase linked to functions of maternality, is characterized by long gradual rhythms which facilitate nurturing, relationship building, and integration (Kestenberg 1967, 1975). The movement and psychological constellations which typify children in this phase occur among boys as well as girls suggesting the biological, maturational preconditioning of both genders for parenting capabilities.


Based on long term movement observation of children, clinical practice, and research, Kestenberg and the study group differentiated efforts, as described by Laban, into four movement clusters: tension flow rhythms (which reflect unconscious needs) tension flow attributes (which reflect temperament and affects), pre-efforts (which reflect immature ways of coping often used in learning and defensive behaviors), and efforts used in coping with space, weight, and time elements (Koch 1997). Similarly they differentiated shape flow into bipolar shape flow (movements which reflect self feelings) and unipolar shape flow (involved in responses to specific stimuli). They added movement qualities which relate to how we move and gesticulate in the kinesphere around us (shape flow design); developed the developmental and psychological understanding of shaping in directions (used in defenses and learning), and shaping in planes (used in complex relationships).

What emerged was a movement-based profile, consisting of qualitative information and nine diagrams which display more than ninety different possible qualities of movement in an individual’s movement repertoire. These nine frequency diagrams of movement quality clusters are arranged to reflect developmental sequences and the alternation of mobilizing and stabilizing qualities in development. Comparing diagrams within the profile can illuminate how movement qualities are used in varied harmonious and clashing combinations.

Once a Kestenberg Movement Profile is completed, it serves as a movement portrait upon which to base a developmental assessment, and in clinical contexts, a treatment plan. As described above, it can also be used to assess learning styles, personality characteristics, styles of relationships, creative intelligence. By comparing two profiles one can discover areas of accord and conflict with between individuals.

The original and primary arena for KMP study has been “primary prevention.” This has involved the appraisal of parent and child movement patterns, contributing to the identification of risk and to the development of facilitative and interventive methods appropriate for particular child-rearing situations.

Although Kestenberg’s work arose from a Freudian paradigm, it emphasized the non-verbal, but did not easily blend with contemporaneous Freudian thinking and thus suffered from under appreciation. In addition, Kestenberg pioneered direct infant observation at a time when it was controversial to privilege psychoanalytic data from anywhere but the psychoanalytic situation. Finally, her work is extremely difficult to master. The KMP requires a set of cognitive talents that are not congenial to most analysts. She began using drive theory just as it fell out of favor and used a methodology that does not interest remaining adherents. Her specificity and attention to detail makes demands that are difficult to meet. However the effort will be rewarded by the appreciation of an entirely new integration of varied dimensions of psychoanalysis.

The scope of KMP interpretations and applications has grown over the many years since its germination, and it appears that there is great potential for the KMP to be employed in further clinical, developmental, interactional and inter-cultural research. The next generation of KMP students, dance/movement therapists, clinical and developmental psychologists, educators, anthropologists, and parents, are exploring ways in which the KMP can be integrated with diverse theoretical frameworks and thus offer a bridge to diverse disciplines and interests.

The Gross Breesen Project

This is the story of Gross Breesen, an agricultural training farm for Jewish youth that was established on the Germany/Poland border before the outbreak of World War II. “Gross Breesen,” says Steve Strauss, the project director,  “is as much about education as it is about survival.”

Mr. Strauss, an acclaimed photographer based in New York City who worked for years for the TV News Show 60 Minutes, was first drawn to the subject when he was shown an original photo album depicting Gross Breesen. “There was one black and white photograph of a barn interior with sunlight pouring through a lone window onto a triangular pillar of harvested grain,” he said. “When I was told where it was taken and what the purpose of the farm was, the idea for a mixed media exhibition immediately came to mind.”

Dr. Curt Bondy, a charismatic and brilliant educator, ran the 1930’s farm. Under Bondy’s tutelage, the young men and women were immersed in a program that balanced hard physical farm labor with lessons on Jewish life, German history and social philosophy. The stately aesthetics and the stability of farm life at Gross Breesen were a welcome respite for the group of 130 Jewish youth that had for years been prey to the escalating oppression of Nazism. Through his efforts, many of Gross-Breesen’s youth were able to immigrate safety to foreign countries with a need for workers skilled in the agricultural sciences.

The “Learning Seeds” exhibit focuses on this first group of Gross Breeseners, the individuals who took Bondy’s teachings and what they learned on the farm out into the world. Their story is a remarkable one, as all contributed to their new communities as farmers, social workers, renowned artists, writers, educators and captains of business. But underlying their success was a profound sense of gratitude for what Bondy and Gross Breesen provided them, and despite their travels taking them to all points on the globe, they continued to “stick together,” keeping in touch with letters and reunions to this very day.

The exhibition itself is a mix of original photos taken at Gross Breesen, documentary footage and NPR/WJFF interviews of deceased and living Gross Breesners.

See a complete overview of this project.



42nd Annual Scholars’ Conference on the Holocaust and the Churches 70 Years Later: The Lingering Shadow of Wannsee
May 12-14, 2012 ▪ Monroe Community College ▪ Rochester, N.Y.
Thank you for your interest and past participation in the 42nd Annual Scholars’ Conference on the Holocaust and the Churches (ASC). Online registration is now available for this year’s conference.
Please visit to visit our conference website, explore the presentation topics, and to register. Plenary and breakout sessions will feature scholars from around the world, including historians, theologians, philosophers, teachers, artists and poets,  including writer and lecturer Michael Berenbaum who will present our keynote presentation, “Is the Shoah the Perfect Storm of Genocide?,” on Monday evening, May 14.
Registrations are appreciated by April 30; an early registration discount is available if your registration and payment are received by April 9.
Pass it on!
We’d appreciate your help in spreading the word about the ASC. Please consider forwarding this message to colleagues and friends suggesting that they visit the ASC website:
We hope to see you in Rochester in May.


The United Nations Holocaust Programme partners with the State of Israel to observe the 50th Anniversary of The Eichmann Trial

“With Me Here Are Six Million Accusers:  The Eichmann Trial in Jerusalem”
Exhibit Opening and Reception         
Thursday, 19 April 2012
6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Visitors Lobby, Gallery C

Israeli Minister Yossi Peled, Holocaust survivor and retired General
Micky Goldman, Holocaust survivor and member of the Israeli Police Bureau 06
Tami Raveh, lawyer and daughter of Gideon Hausner, the trial’s Chief Prosecutor
RSVP by 16 April 2012
Register via email


“The Trial of Adolf Eichmann: 50 Years Later”                 Roundtable Discussion
Monday, 23 April 2012
6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
ECOSOC Chamber, North Lawn Building

The event will examine the trial’s influence on society and on justice and accountability in the 21st century. An interactive discussion with the audience will follow the speakers’ presentations.
Israeli Minister Yossi Peled, Holocaust survivor and retired General
Elie Wiesel, Nobel Laureate, Holocaust survivor and former journalist who covered the Eichmann trial for The Forward

Amos Hausner, attorney and son of Gideon Hausner, the trial’s Chief Prosecutor
Deborah Lipstadt, Professor at Emory University and author of The Eichmann Trial
Moderator: Ramu Damodaran, Deputy Director for Partnerships and Public Engagement, Outreach Division, United Nations Department of Public Information
RSVP by 16 April 2012
Register via email

Dr. Judith S. Kestenberg