The term arrested development has had multiple meanings for over 200 years. In the field of medicine, the term "arrested development" was used, in 1835–1836, to mean a stoppage of physical development; the term continues to be used in the same way. Ernest Hemingway uses the term in The Sun Also Rises. On page 51, Harvey tells Cohn, "I misjudged you [...] You're not a moron. You're only a case of arrested development."
However, in the UK Mental Health Act of 1983, the term "arrested development" was considered a form of mental disorder consisting of severe mental impairment, resulting in a lack of intelligence.
Other researchers have objected to the notion that mental development can be "arrested" or stopped, preferring to consider the mental status as developing in other ways, rather than the notion of mental growth as arrested. Consequently, in psychological terminology, the term "arrested development" is no longer used in referring to a developmental disorder in mental health.
In anthropology and archaeology the term arrested development means that a plateau of development in some sphere has been reached. Often it is a technological plateau such as the development of high temperature ceramics, but no glaze because of a lack of materials, or copper smelting without development of bronze because of a lack of tin.