Understanding the Rubicon scientifically

An important development process in children

In Waldorf education and anthroposophic literature, the "Rubicon" refers to the development step which the child goes through around the age of 9 or 10. During this phase the child begins to separate itself and the world from one another through experience. The Chair of Medical Theory, Integrative and Anthroposophic Medicine at the University of Witten/Herdecke would like to determine together with the Children's Clinic at the University of Tübingen and the Filder Clinic, as well as the Specialist Department of Educational Sciences at the Alanus University in Alfter, whether it is possible to grasp these change processes and examine them scientifically.

Development of a Rubicon concept

During the middle phase of childhood, emotional disorders or behavioural problems frequently occur. The vulnerability of children at this age, their existential insecurities, their impulses to define boundaries and search for orientation are often not explained as a phase-specific development crisis. Many parents therefore find this unsettling and wonder if they have done something wrong when their children talk about wanting to look for new parents, for example, or if they suddenly need a torch at the age of nine so that they can go to sleep.

The project "The Rubicon and its empirical verifiability as an important part of the development processes of children in middle childhood" would like to make these change processes more tangible and therefore more transparent. The project aims to determine whether the Rubicon happens in all children, within which age range this process occurs, what it is affected by, what contributes to its success and what possibly inhibits it.


In which phases is the project carried out?

Between 2012 and 2014, parents of children attending Waldorf and primary schools, school doctors and carers were surveyed on the changes that they perceived in the children. From these experiences a questionnaire was developed which included the following dimensions: Farewell from the magical state of consciousness of the toddler, emotional insecurity, ability to set boundaries, development of the child's own impulses and physical dimensions. This questionnaire is designed to help make the changes in middle childhood perceptible as a normal psychophysiological development process. The questionnaire is distributed to a total of approximately 1,000 parents, with the research project and the research results obtained so far being presented at parents evenings covering several school years. Participating parents are requested to fill in the questionnaire three times at intervals of 3 to 4 months. After one year the participating parents are invited to a final parents' evening at which there is an opportunity for personal feedback and an exchange of information.

Chair of Medical Theory, Integrative and Anthroposophic Medicine at the University of Witten/Herdecke

With its research projects, the Chair of Medical Theory, Integrative and Anthroposophic Medicine at the University of Witten/Herdecke directly investigates theoretical medical issues, which also include an analysis of the correlations between physiological and developmental psychology issues.

Other participating institutions

At the Children's Clinic in Tübingen, Dr. David Martin has carried out fundamental research into the adrenarche, which gave him the idea of investigating more closely the physiological interactions between the development of the adrenal hormones and the Rubicon phenomena. He and his team have already done this in pilot projects within the context of investigations at Waldorf schools, but they soon realised that the Rubicon concept first requires more accurate characterisation and operationalisation, which is why he initiated this project with Dr. Berger. 

Prof. Dr. Axel Föller-Mancini is a Waldorf school teacher and worked for many years in the Teaching Department of the Community Hospital in Herdecke, so that he had a particularly vivid insight into the Rubicon development of children, before studying education and development psychology and – on the basis of individual case studies – analysing the correlations between ADHD, the child's development and the opportunities provided by a Waldorf education.

What are the funds of the MAHLE FOUNDATION used for?

With the help of the money from the MAHLE FOUNDATION, which has been funding the project since 2012, it has been possible to conduct the interviews with the parents, school doctors and other carers of children and pay for the transcription of the interviews. Furthermore, it was possible to finance a symposium and specialist advice from experts. Complex individual case analyses and studies in the Steiner Library in Dornach were also made possible. Furthermore, it was possible to hold various workshops in which the research designs and the associated interim results were presented and discussed. A female scientific employee was recruited to carry out the acquisition procedure at the schools and enter the data. The money from the second phase of funding is used for the validation of the parents' questionnaire.


Dr. Bettina Berger

Forschungs- und Lehrzentrum Herdecke ("Herdecke Research and Teaching Centre")

a sponsor organisation of the Centre for Clinical Studies (ZKS)

of the University of Witten/Herdecke

Gerhard Kienle Chair of Medical Theory, Integrative and Anthroposophic Medicine

Gerhard Kienle Weg 4

58313 Herdecke, Germany

Phone:+49 2330 / 62 47 63

Email: bettina.berger@uni-wh.de