Views & Reviews Medical Classics

The Normal Child

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: (Published 11 April 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e2436
  1. Ian Johnston, specialty doctor in community paediatrics, Croydon Health Services NHS Trust, Croydon CR9 2RS
  1. ibj1{at}

Variation in humanity is so great that it is sometimes challenging to tell the normal from the pathological. This distinction is critical in paediatrics, where variation in children’s growth, physical appearance, behaviour, and emotional development can be enormous without amounting to disease. Recognition of the normal child is an acquired skill; one that is fraught with the dangers of overinvestigation and of the failure to reassure parents. Ronald Illingworth’s The Normal Child, a landmark in the paediatric literature, saved countless doctors—specialist and non-specialist—from the perils of misdiagnosing normality in children.

Illingworth, who was professor of child health at Sheffield University, published the …

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