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Chapter 10
Social and Personality Development in Middle Childhood

Psychosocial Development:
Industry vs. Inferiority

According to Erik Erikson, middle childhood encompasses the INDUSTRY-VERSUS-INFERIORITY STAGE, the period from ages 6 to 12 characterized by a focus on efforts to attain competence in meeting the challenges presented by parents, peers, school, and the other complexities of the modern world.

Psychosocial Development:
Industry vs. Inferiority (continued)

Success in this stage is evidenced by feelings of mastery, proficiency, and confidence.

Difficulties lead to feelings of failure and inadequacy, and to withdrawal from academics and socialization with peers.

Attaining a sense of industry during middle childhood has lasting consequences.

High levels of childhood industry are associated with adult success (more so than intelligence and family background).


Children in middle childhood are struggling to understand who they are, and continue to explore answers to the question "Who am I?"

During middle childhood, children begin to view themselves less in terms of external physical attributes and more in terms of psychological traits.

Children realize they are good at some things and not so good at others.

Their self-concepts become divided into personal and academic spheres.

Self-Concept (continued)

Children use SOCIAL COMPARISON, comparing themselves to the abilities, expertise, and opinions of others.

Children look to others who are similar to themselves. But, sometimes children make downward social comparisons with others who are obviously less competent or successful to raise or protect their self-esteem.

Expectation Effects: How Others’ Expectancies Influence Children’s Behavior

Research suggests a TEACHER EXPECTANCY EFFECT, the cycle of behavior in which a teacher transmits an expectation about a child and thereby actually brings about the expected behavior.

Teacher expectancy effect is a special case of the self-fulfilling prophecy, in which a person’s expectation is capable of bringing about an outcome.

Teacher Expectations

Four channels by which teacher’s expectations are communicated to students:

Classroom social-emotional climate: teachers are warmer and more positive toward students for whom they have high expectations.

Input: high-expectancy students are given more materials and opportunities.

Output: high-expectancy students benefit from more contact with teachers.

Feedback: high-expectancy students receive more positive feedback, and low-expectancy students receive more criticism.


Children evaluate themselves in terms of physical and psychological characteristics, but they also think of themselves as being good or bad (involves emotions).

SELF-ESTEEM, an individual's overall and specific positive and negative self-evaluation, develops in important ways during middle childhood.

Self-Esteem (continued)

Children increasingly compare themselves to others.

Children are developing their own internal standards.

Self-esteem, for most children, increases during middle childhood.

Children with low self-esteem may become enmeshed in a cycle of failure that is difficult to break.

Self-Esteem (continued)

Complex relationship between self-esteem and minority group status:

Black children initially have lower self-esteem than white children, but surpass them around age 11 as they increasingly identify with and take pride in their group.

Hispanic children also show an increase in self-esteem, but always lag behind white children.

Asian children show the opposite pattern – initially high self-esteem decreases through childhood.

As ethnic pride and awareness grow, differences in self-esteem between members of different ethnic groups lessen.

Moral Development

Kohlberg’s theory of moral development:

People pass through stages in the kind of reasoning they use to make moral judgments, primarily based on cognitive characteristics.

INTERNALIZATION is key to the theory: developmental change from behavior that is externally controlled to behavior that is internally controlled

Based largely on Piaget’s stages of cognitive development

Kohlberg’s Stages of Moral Reasoning

Preconventional Morality (stages 1 & 2) –

Children seek to avoid punishment or attain rewards, sometimes through equal exchange

No internalization – behavior is controlled externally

Kohlberg’s Stages of Moral Reasoning

Conventional Morality (stages 3 & 4) –

People try to please significant others, or be good, responsible members of society. "Right" is what others say it is.

Partial internalization – the rules or standards of behavior have been internalized, but their source is still external

Kohlberg’s Stages of Moral Reasoning

Postconventional Morality (stages 5 & 6) --

Universal moral principles are invoked and considered broader than a particular society. Kohlberg sees justice as the highest principle.

Complete internalization – people act according to conscience.

Kohlberg’s Stages

Criticisms of Kohlberg’s Theory

Kohlberg's theory is a good account of moral judgment but not adequate at predicting moral behavior.

The theory is based on data from boys, and may be inadequate in describing the moral development of girls.

Moral Development in Girls

Carol Gilligan says:

The way boys and girls are raised in our own society leads to differences in moral reasoning.

Kohlberg's theory is inadequate and places girls' moral reasoning at a lower level than boys‘ reasoning. This is because of the female emphasis on interpersonal relationships and responsibility.

Moral Development in Girls (continued)

Justice perspective vs. care perspective

Boys view morality primarily in terms of justice and fairness. "What is the right thing to do?"

Girls see morality in terms of responsibility and compassion toward individuals and a willingness to sacrifice for relationships. "Who will have to suffer?"

Moral Development in Girls (continued)

Gilligan sees morality in girls developing in 3 stages:

Morality as individual survival - -where females concentrate on what is practical and best for them.

Morality as self-sacrifice -- where females think they must sacrifice their own wishes to what others want.

Morality as equality -- women come to see hurting anyone as immoral, including themselves.

Friendship in Middle Childhood

Development is seriously affected by the formation of friendships in middle childhood.

Friendships influence children's development in several ways –

Information about the world & others

Emotional support, stress management

Communication & relationship skills

Teach children how to manage emotions

Status Among School-Age Children

Children's friendships show clear hierarchies in terms of STATUS, the evaluation of a role or person by other relevant members of a group.

High-status children have greater access to resources such as games, toys, books, and information.

High-status children tend to form friendships with high-status children, and low-status children form friendships with other lower-status children.

Status Among School-Age Children (continued)

Lower-status children tend to follow the lead of higher-status children.

Popularity is a reflection of a child's status.

High-status children are more likely to form exclusive and desirable cliques, and tend to play with a greater number of children than lower-status children.

Lower-status children are more likely to play with younger or less popular children.

Behaviors Favored in Friends During Middle Childhood


Sense of humor







Verbally aggressive





Physically aggressive

What makes a child popular during middle childhood?

Popular children have SOCIAL COMPETENCE, the collection of individual social skills that permit individuals to perform successfully in social settings.

Another factor that relates to children's popularity is skill at SOCIAL PROBLEM-SOLVING, the use of strategies for solving social conflicts in ways that are satisfactory both to oneself and to others.

Gender & Friendships in Middle Childhood

Avoidance of the opposite sex becomes very pronounced during middle childhood.

Children's friendships are almost entirely sex-segregated.

When the sexes interact it is called "border work."

Often romantic.

Helps emphasize clear boundaries between the sexes.

Lays the groundwork for future interactions during adolescence.

Girls threatening to kiss boys.

Boys luring girls into chasing them.

Boys' and Girls' Friendships

Boys have larger networks of friends than girls.

Boys have a strict DOMINANCE HIERARCHY, in which members of higher status can safely question and oppose children lower in the hierarchy.

Boys attempt to maintain and improve their status in the hierarchy, which makes for a style of play known as restrictive play where interactions are interrupted when status is challenged.

Boys' and Girls' Friendships (continued)

Girls focus on one or two "best friends" of relatively equal status.

Conflicts among girls are solved by compromise, ignoring the situation, or giving in. The goal is to maintain equal-status relationships.

Girls, however, can be confrontational with other girls who are not their friends or with boys.

Girls' language is less confrontational and direct than boys'.

Cross-Race Friendships

Children's closest friends tend to be with others of the same race.

Research supports the notion that contact between majority and minority group members can reduce prejudice and discrimination.

Contact must occur in equal status settings.

Contact is enhanced through cooperative activities that are important.

The contact must promote equality and disconfirm negative stereotypes.

Parenting - Coregulation

During this stage, children move from being almost completely controlled by their parents to increasing independence in daily activities.

Coregulation – period during which children and parents jointly control behavior

Parents provide broad general guidelines for behavior, and children have control over the specifics.

The Family

During middle childhood, children spend less time with parents, but parents are still a major influence.

Siblings have important influence, for good and bad.

Sibling rivalry can occur, with siblings competing or quarreling.

The structure of the family has been changing dramatically over the past several decades:

Increase in the number of parents working outside the home.

Rise in single-parent families.

Escalating divorce rate.

Working Parents

In most cases, children whose parents both work full-time outside the home fare quite well.

Women who are satisfied with their lives tend to be more nurturing at home.

Research shows that children whose parents both work spend essentially the same amount of time with the family, in class, with friends, and at home as children who have a parent at home.

Children may spend more time with their father if their mother works.

Home and Alone: What Do Children Do?

SELF-CARE CHILDREN let themselves into their homes after school and wait alone until their parents return from work.

Previously called "latchkey" children, but term no longer in favor due to negative connotation.

12 to 14 % of children in US between ages of 5 and 12 spend some time alone after school, without adult supervision.

Experiences vary widely – some get in trouble, others have no negative effects, especially if parents provide monitoring and supervision.


Only 1/2 of children in the U.S. will pass through childhood living with both parents, each of whom has been married only once.

School-age children may blame themselves for the breakup.

Both children and parents may show several types of psychological maladjustments for 6 months to 2 years after a divorce:



sleep disturbances


Impact of Divorce on School-Age Children

Most children will live with their mother, and the mother-child relationship may decline temporarily.

After 18 months to 2 years, most children return to their predivorce psychological adjustment.

Twice as many children of divorced parents require psychological counseling as do children from intact families. (20% vs. 10%)

Problems include: academic problems, acting out & delinquency, depression, early sexual activity

Impact of Divorce (continued)

Divorce brings a decline to both parents' standard of living—especially the mother’s.

For some children, living in a home with an unhappy marriage and which is high in conflict has stronger negative consequences than a divorce.


Single-Parent Families

One-quarter of all children under age of 18 in the U.S. live with only one parent.

60% of African-American children and 35% of Hispanic children under 18 live in single-parent homes.

If present trends continue, more than ¾ of American children will spend some portion of their lives in a single-parent family before they are 18.

Single Parent Families (continued)

Consequences of living in a single-parent home depends on variety of factors:

Was second parent present before?

What is economic status of single parent?

More single-parent families live in relative poverty.

The stigma of single-parent homes has declined.

Living in Blended Families

BLENDED FAMILIES include a remarried couple that has at least one stepchild living with them.

17% of all children in the U.S. live in blended families. (more than 5 million families)

Living in a blended family may involve role ambiguity, in which roles and expectations are unclear.

Blended Families (continued)

Some school-age children adjust relatively smoothly to a blended family.

Financial status of family improves

More people to share household chores

More social interaction and attention

Some children do not adjust well,especially if the new relationship is threatening and they have to share parent’s attention with a stepsibling. Stabilization may take a number of years.

Race and Family Life

African-American families:

African-Americans typically have a strong sense of family and support extended family members.

A high proportion of African-American families are headed by females or older adults, such as grandparents.

Race and Family Life (continued)

Hispanic families:

Hispanics stress the importance of family life, community, and religious organizations.

Hispanic children typically value their roles in the family.

Hispanic families are relatively large, with an average size of 3.71, compared to 2.97 for Caucasian and 3.31 for African-American families.

Race and Family Life (continued)

Asian-American families:

Asian-American families are more apt to have powerful father figures who maintain discipline.

The culture is collectivistic, so children tend to put the needs of the family over their own.

Group Care: Orphanages in the 21st Century

The term "orphanage" has been replaced by group home or residential treatment center, group homes used for childen whose parents are no longer able to care for them adequately.

The number of children in group care has grown over 50 % between 1995 and 2000. (more than ½ million children)

About three-quarters of children in group homes are victims of abuse and neglect.

Group Care in the 21st Century

Most will eventually return home; however, one-fourth will be in group care throughout childhood.

Experts disagree on the advantages and disadvantages of group care.

Some see them as a solution to unwed mothers who become dependent on welfare.

Many who work in these homes say they cannot provide adequate love and support as a family could.

They cost ten times as much as foster care or welfare (e.g., $40,000/yr.).