Children go through middle childhood, this starts around age 6 and continues to age 11.
This is often referred to as the “”school years””. Middle childhood children are very curious and love to explore the world around them. They are active listeners and absorb knowledge like sponges. This is a time when children develop foundational skills for building healthy social relationships and learn roles that will prepare them for adolescence and adulthood. They are learning the social foundations of forming friendships and peer relations, learning morals and empathy, and being active members at school and at home. This paper should identify the physical, social, and cognitive changes that occur during middle childhood. Secondly, I will briefly describe one of Erik Erikson’s Psychosocial Stage of Development and I will explain how that stage appropriately fits with middle childhood. Finally, I will discuss the effect that cultural factors could have on middle childhood.
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During middle childhood, children go through a lot of physical changes. They will learn how to make and maintain friendships. This will become an important part of the developmental process during this time. Few things can make a parent’s heart ache more than to watch your child struggle to find friends or struggle with social rejection or even bullying behaviors from other kids. There are things that parents can do to ensure that their child is gaining the social competence that they need to succeed in school and later in life. Another change that a child will experience is puberty.
Puberty is a natural and normal part of life. Both boys and girls will experience physical changes, such as girls will develop breasts, changes in body shape and height, growth of pubic and body hair and the start of their period, also known as menarche. For boys going through puberty, some physical changes include, growth of the penis and testes (testicles), changes in body shape and height, erections with ejaculation, growth of body and facial hair and changes to voice. (Centre for Adolescent Health, 2014)
During middle childhood, children will grow roughly about 2 to 3 inches per year and gain about 5 to 7 pounds per year (Lao, Joseph 2015). During this stage boys are generally taller than girls. Sometimes, children of this age will complain about pain in their arms and legs. These “”growing pains”” are indeed real and affect between 25% and 40% of all children between the ages of 8 and 12. Developing motor skills and fine motor coordination is an important key to physical development in middle childhood. “Motor skills during middle childhood become more efficient and better controlled, involve complex and coordinated movements, and are exhibited quickly and in a wider variety of contexts and circumstances” (Bukatko, D 2008).
When children advance from early childhood to middle childhood they will go through a number of crucial cognitive changes. For example, they will become more aware of their surroundings and have a better understanding about who they are becoming as a person. Children should have acquired the skill to be aware of their own achievements and disappointments. They will have developed the ability to put themselves into someone else’s shoes, their appreciation of morality becomes more self-directed and less black and white. They are able to stop and to think about what is the right thing to do, and to consider the potential consequences and benefits of different behaviors before they act. Their confidence, self-esteem, self-awareness will develop more and “they begin to reason in the common sense meaning of the world”. Middle childhood is also when they can retain information longer, problem solving becomes clearer with the information they have retained, a longer attention span and their need and wanting to learn. In school or wherever they spend time, children acquire the fundamental skills considered to be important by their culture, such as reading and arithmetic.” (Eccles, Jacquelynne 1999 pg 32-33).
The above cognitive changes just described serves as a founding for the social changes in middle childhood. It is with their newfound independence that they tend to leave their parents/caregiver’s side and venture into a new world. Children will be exposure to new adults and peers outside of the family setting. They will have more freedom, right and responsibilities, which will help prepare for adulthood. Forming close friendships and peer relations become very important in a child’s life. Time with their family becomes less as they want to spend more time with their friends and their social life. This is also a time to keep your children close and watch who they socialize with. They will become more concerned about fitting in and winning acceptance from peers, so it is very important that they find a place within their social group. (Eccles, Jacquelynne 1999 pg 34).
The fourth stage in Erickson’s stage is psychological development is competence. The competence stage, which covers the ages of five to twelve years old. The basic conflict is making the transition from everything depending on our parents to things depending also with school and the neighborhood. The life style virtue is Method and Competence. (Heffner, Christopher 2015). The basic conflict is making the transition from everything depending on our parents to things depending also with school and the neighborhood. The life style virtue is Method and Competence. (Heffner, Christopher 2015)
Middle childhood is also known as the Latency. During this stage, children are proficient and want to learn, create and accomplish many new skills and understandings. According to Erikson’s theory, “this is also a very social stage of development and if we experience unresolved feelings of inadequacy and inferiority among our peers, we can have serious problems in terms of competence and self-esteem. Parents are no longer the complete authorities they once were, although they are still important.”
I think this stage best fits middle childhood because in Erikson’s theory Industry vs. Inferiority, Erikson believes that middle childhood is a very social stage of development. As I previously mentioned in the social changes paragraph, children in middle child hood think forming close friendships and peer relations very important in their life. Also, Erikson states during this stage, children learn, create, and accomplish new skills and knowledge. As stated above in the cognitive changes paragraph, middle childhood is the age when children are able obtain and remember a lot more information for longer periods of time, they have a much better attention span and now they can use that information to solve problems, make decisions.
All humans are cultural beings, even children. During middle childhood, children’s connection to their culture start to develop through their experiences and interactions with social, familial, and cultural environments. For example, if a child in the middle childhood age group, establishes a warm and secure emotional attachment with a parent or adult figure, it would help that child connect with their cultural identity. Having a strong sense of their own cultural history and the traditions associated with it helps children in middle childhood build a positive cultural identity for themselves (Kids Matter 2015).
As with everything in life there are pro’s and con’s. Some of the con’s to the cultural factors could impact development in middle childhood. As I previously mentioned, children in middle childhood have a better understanding about who they are as person, they develop self-awareness and they’re sexual hormones start to increase due to puberty. Around the end of middle childhood, about age twelve, children start to notice whether or not they like the opposite sex and they start to question their sexuality. Because these children have stepped out of their “norm” they may face a lot of discrimination and bullying by their peers at school. This plays a major role in the impact on the development of children in middle childhood, including depression, anxiety, and even suicide. Likewise, early-maturing girls may suffer teasing or sexual harassment related to their developing bodies, contributing to a higher risk of depression, substance abuse, and eating disorders. (Boundless Psychology).
I believe this paper has summarized the important developmental changes that take place in middle childhood from ages 6 to 11. I discussed the changes in children’s participation in the world beyond the family. In addition, it examined the importance of advancing from early childhood to middle childhood and the crucial steps that mark middle childhood years such as self-awareness, social comparison, and self-esteem. It briefly discussed Erik Erikson’s psychosocial development stages and how it applies to middle childhood. Finally, it explained cultural factors that impact development of middle childhood.
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