Psychosocial development in middle childhood

psychosocial development in middle childhood

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  1. What helps some children thrive in a difficult family, school, or neighborhood?
  2. What happens in cases of divorce ?
  3. How does moral development unfold ?

The Nature of the Child (part 1)

The middle childhood years are characterized by steady growth , brain maturation and intellectual advances . Children become more capable and independent and social . Negotiation and compromise become important.



Social comparison

  • Tendency to assess oneself against those of other people , especially peers
  • Contributes to development of realistic , culturally viable self value

Peer relationships

  • Crucial during middle childhood Correlated with self- concept.

The Nature of the School-Age Children


Erikson’s insights : Industry versus inferiority


  • Characterized by tension between productivity and incompetence
  • Proposes children judge themselves as competent or incompetent , productive or useless, winners or losers
  • Self-pride dependent on others’ view


Freud : Latency

  • Emotional drives are quiet, and unconscious sexual conflicts are submerged .
  • Children acquire cognitive skills and assimilate cultural values by expanding their world to include teachers, neighbors, peers, club leaders, and coaches .
  • Sexual energy is channeled into social concerns.


Self -concept

  • Contains ideas about self that include intelligence , personality , abilities, gender , and ethnic background
  • Gradually becomes more realistic , specific , and logical
  • Is dependent on social comparison .


Psychosocial Maturation

  • Children responsibly perform specific chores .
  • Children make decisions about a weekly allowance .
  • Children can tell time, and they have set times for various activities.
  • Children have homework, including some assignments over several days .
  • Children are less often punished than when they were younger.
  • Children try to conform to peers in clothes, language, and so on.
  • Children voice preferences about their after-school care, lessons, and activities .
  • Children are responsible for younger children, pets, and, in some places, work
  • Children strive for independence from parents.

Of course, culture is crucial. For example, giving a child an allowance has been typical for middle-class families in developed nations since about 1960. It was rare or completely absent in earlier times and other places.



  • Involves capacity to adapt well to significant adversity and to overcome serious stress
  • Suggests differential sensitivity


Important components

  • Resilience is dynamic .
  • Resilience is a positive adaptation to stress .
  • Adversity must be significant .

Dominant Ideas About Resilience , 965 – 2017

1965: All children have same needs for healthy development.

1985: Factors beyond the family, both in the child and in the community, can harm children.

2005: Focus on strengths, not risks

2012: Genes, family structures, and cultural practices can be either strengths or weaknesses.


2015: Communities are responsible for child resilience.

Dominant Ideas About Resilience Today


  • Resilience is seen more broadly as a characteristic of mothers and communities.
  • Some are quite resilient, which fosters resilience in children .

Cumulative Stress

  1. Repeated stresses, daily hassles, and multiple traumatic experiences may challenge resilience.
  2. Social context is crucial .
  • Family as protective buffer
  • Committed caregiver , especially mother
  • Daily routine

Cognitive Coping g(part 1)

Coping measures reduce impact of repeated stress.

  • Interpretation of family situation and other circumstances
  • Development of friends , activities , and skills
  • Participation in school success and after-school activities
  • Involvement in community , church , and other programs

Same Situation , Far Apart : Praying Han

Differences, even in their clothes and hand positions, are obvious between the Northern Indian girls entering their Hindu school and the West African boy in a Christian church . But underlying similarities are more important . In every culture , many 8-vear -olds are more devout than their elders.


Cognitive Coping (part 3


  • Occurs when a child acts more like a parent than a child
  • Happens if the actual parents do not act as caregivers, making a child feel responsible for the entire family
  • Has effect related to child interpretation of what they do

Family Function and Family Structure

Family structure: Legal and genetic relationships among relatives living in the same home and includes nuclear family, extended family, stepfamily, and others.


Family function:

  • Way a family works to meet the needs of its members
  • Families provide basic material necessities to encourage learning , to help development of self respect, to nurture friendships, and to foster harmony and stability .

Needs of Children in Middle Childhood

Families help children

  • Provide basic physical necessities
  • Encourage learning
  • Help development of self -respect
  • Nurture friendships
  • Foster harmony and stability

Continuity and Change

No family always functions perfectly

Children worldwide fare better in families than in other institutions

School-agers value continuity and having fathers at home

Stability challenges occur in military families


A VIEW FROM SCIENCE Effects of Genes and Environment

  • Children raised in the same households by the same parents do not necessarily share the same experiences or home environment.
  • Changes in the family affect every family member differently, depending on age and/or gender
  • Most parents respond to each of their children differently .

Diversity of Family Structures (part 1)


. Two-Parent Families

  • Nuclear family
  • Stepparent family
  • Adoptive family
  • Grandparents alone
  • Two same-sex parents

Single -Parent Families

  • Single mother- never married
  • Single mother- divorced, separated , widowed
  • Single father
  • Grandparent alone

Diversity of Family Structures part 2)

More than two-adult families

  • Extended family
  • Polygamous family
  • These may also be included as two-parent or single-parent family categories .

Divorce (part 1)

How can these facts be interpreted ?

  • United States leads world in rates of marriage , divorce , and remarriage .
  • Single, cohabiting, and stepparents sometimes provide good care for their children, but children usually do best living with married parents.
  • Divorce is a process, not a decree.
  • Custody disputes and outcomes frequently harm children.

Divorce (part 2)


  • Both marriage and personal freedom are idolized. This creates a cultural conflict.
  • A shrinking middle class impacts the ability to find jobs and support families. This creates a strain on marriages and families .
  • Some of the greatest effects of divorce come from frequent changes in residence, school, and family members.
  • Parenting style (e.g., discipline, too much or too little child responsibility , conflict , secrets ).

Connecting Family Structure an (part 1)

Two-parent families

Generally function best

Better educational , social , cognitive, and behavioral child outcomes

Mate selection effects and. parental alliance

Positive effects beyond childhood

Some reported benefits are correlates.

Connecting Family Structure and Function (part 2)

Adoptive and same-sex parent families

Typically function well ; often better than average nuclear families

Vary tremendously in ability to meet child needs.


Some function well ; positive relationships more easily formed with children under 2 more difficult with teenagers

Solid parental alliance more difficult to form

Child loyalty to parents often undermined by disputes.


Grandparent family (skipped-generation family ) Generally lower income, more health problems, less stability

Often involve grandchildren with health or behavioral problems who are less likely to succeed in school


Receive fewer services for children with special needs


Single-parent families

  • On average, structure functions less well for children
  • Lower income and stability
  • Stress from multiple roles
  • Benefit from community support
  • More common in United States than in many nations

Family Challenges part 1)

Two factors increase the likelihood of dysfunction in every structure , ethnic group , and nation :

  • Low income or poverty
  • High conflict

Wealth and Poverty

  • Family income correlates with function and structure
  • Low-SES contribute to increased family risk factors .
  • Any risk factor damages only if it increased parental stress and adult hostility ( family- stress model)

Family challenges part2


  • Family conflict harms children, especially when adults fight about child rearing .
  • Fights are more common in stepfamilies, divorced families, and extended families.
  • Although genes have some effect, conflict itself is the main influence on a child’s well -being .

The Peer Group

Child culture

Particular habits , styles , and values that reflect the set of rules and rituals that characterize children as distinct from adult society

  • Fashion
  • Appearance
  • Peer culture
  • Attitudes
  • Independence from adults

Passed down to younger children from slightly older ones.


Friendship and Social Acceptance (part 1)


  • In middle childhood , children value personal friendship more than peer acceptance.
  • Friendships lead to psychosocial growth and provide a buffer against psychopathology.
  • Gender differences : Girls talk more and share secrets . Boys play more active games .

Friendship and Social Acceptance ( art 2)


Older children

  • Demand more of their friends
  • Change friends less often
  • Become more upset when a friendship ends
  • Find it harder to make new friends
  • Seek friends who share their interests and values.


Popular and Unpopular Children

Well – liked children in the United States

  • Kind, trustworthy , cooperative
  • Athletic, cool, dominant , arrogant, aggressive (around fifth grade)

Less liked children in the United States

  • Neglected
  • Aggressive -rejected
  • Withdrawn – rejected

Bullies and Victims


Repeated, systematic efforts to inflict harm through physical , verbal , or social attack on a weaker person.



Bully -victim

Someone who attacks others and who is attacked as well.

Also called a provocative victim because he or she does things that elicit bullying, such as stealing a bully’s pencil.


Types of bullying:

  • Physical ( hitting , pinching , or kicking )
  • Verbal ( teasing , taunting , or name calling)
  • Relational ( destroying peer acceptance and friendship )
  • Cyberbullying ( using electronic means to harm another ).

Causes and Consequences of Bullying


  • Genetic predisposition or brain abnormality
  • Parenting / caregiving environment
  • Age , peers


  • Impaired social understanding , lower school achievement, relationship difficulties.

Can Bullying Be Stopped?

  • The whole school community must be involved , not just the identified bullies.
  • Intervention is more effective in the earlier grades.
  • Evaluation of results is critical.

Children’s Moral Values ( part 1)

Forces that drive emerging interest in moral issues include:

  • Child culture
  • Personal experience

Children show a variety of skills in:

  • Making moral judgments
  • Differentiating universal principles from conventional norms
  • Becoming more socially perceptive

Children’s Moral Values (part 2)

Kohlberg’s levels of moral thought

Stages of morality stem from three levels of moral reasoning with two stages at each level 1. Preconventional moral reasoning: Emphasizes rewards and punishments 2. Conventional moral reasoning : Emphasizes social rules 3. Postconventional moral reasoning : Emphasizes moral principles.


  • Preconventional moral reasoning is similar to preoperational thought in that it is egocentric, with children most interested in their personal pleasure or avoiding punishment.
  • Conventional moral reasoning parallels concrete operational thought in that it relates to current, observable practices: Children watch what their parents, teachers, and friends do, and they try to follow suit.
  • Postconventional moral reasoning is similar to formal operational thought because it uses abstractions, going beyond what is concretely observed, willing to question ” what is” in order to decide “what should be.”

Kohlberg’s Three Levels and Six Stages of Moral Reasoning

Level 1 :Preconventional Moral Reasoning

The goal is to get rewards and avoid punishments; this is a self- centered level.

  • Stage one: Might makes right (a punishment-and-obedience orientation). The most important value is to maintain the appearance of obedience to authority, avoiding punishment while still advancing self-interest. Don’t get caught!
  • Stage two: Look out for number one (an instrumental and relativist orientation) Everyone prioritizes his or her own needs. The reason to be nice to other people is so that they will be nice to you.

Level II: Conventional Moral Reasoning

Emphasis is placed on social rules; this is a parent- and community- centered level.

  • Stage three : Good girl and nice boy. The goal is to please other people. Social approval is more important than any specific reward .
  • Stage four: Law and order . Everyone must be a dutiful and law -abiding citizen, even when no police are nearby.

Level III: Postconventional Moral Reasoning

Emphasis is placed on moral principles; this level is centered on ideals.

  • Stage five: Social contractObey social rules because they benefit everyone and are established by mutual agreement. If the rules become destructive or if one party doesn’t live up to the agreement, the contract is no longer binding. Under some circumstances, disobeying the law is moral.
  • Stage six: Universal ethical principles . Universal principles , not individual situations ( level ) or community practices ( level , determine right and wrong. Ethical values ( such as “life is sacred “) are established by individual reflection and religious ideas, which may contradict egocentric (level ) or social and community ( level II) values .

Children’s Moral Values (part 3

Criticisms of Kohlberg


  • Child use of intellectual abilities to justify moral actions was correct .


  • Culture and gender differences are ignored.
  • Differences between child and adult morality are not addressed .

What Children Value

Prosocial values among 6- to 11years

  • Care for close family members
  • Cooperate with other children
  • Do not hurt anyone intentionally .

Adult versus peer values

  • Protect your friends
  • Do not tell adults what is happening
  • Conform to peer standards of dress , talk , and behavior.

Developing Moral Values

Throughout middle childhood , moral judgment becomes more comprehensive

Psychological and physical harm, as well as intentions and consequences taken into account


Peer effects on morality (Piaget)

Transition from advocating for retribution to restitution between ages of 8 and 10 years.


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