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Chapter 9
Physical and Cognitive Development in Middle Childhood

The Growing Body

Physical growth is slow, but steady, averages 2 to 3 inches per year.

This is the only time during the life span when girls are, on average, taller than boys.

By age 11, the average girl is 4' 10" & the average boy is 4' 9 ˝".

During middle childhood, both boys and girls gain from 5 to 7 pounds a year.

Height and weight variations can be affected by poor nutrition and racial or ethnic background.

Smaller children in areas with poor nutrition (possibly related in part to racial/ethnic differences too).



Proper nutrition is linked to positive personality traits:


Nutrition (continued)

Undernutrition & malnutrition definitely lead to physical, social and cognitive difficulties for children in middle childhood.

BUT, overnutrition (the intake of too many calories) also presents problems.

15 % of all children are obese. This proportion has tripled since the 1960s.


Obesity in Children


Obesity can be caused by a combination of genetic and social characteristics.

School-age children tend to engage in little exercise and are not particularly fit.

The correlation between TV viewing and obesity is strong.

Motor Development

Gross Motor Skills

Important advances, including muscle coordination

Gender differences likely the result of societal messages/expectations rather than motor skills

Fine Motor Skills

Typing, ting shoes, fastening buttons, and manipulate objects almost as well as adults

Development of fine motor skills partly caused by increase in amount of myelin, the insulation around the nerve cells

Health During Middle Childhood

For most children in the U.S., the common cold is about the most serious illness that occurs during middle childhood. Most kids are very healthy at this age.

BUT colds are not uncommon during middle childhood.

1 in 9 children has a chronic, persistent condition.

Although life threatening illnesses have declined over the past 50 years, some chronic illnesses have become more prevalent.


ASTHMA, a chronic condition characterized by periodic attacks of wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath, has increased significantly in the last several decades & now affects more than 15 million U.S. children.

Some researchers believe the increase in asthma is due to pollution, dust due to better insulated buildings, and poor medical care associated with poverty.

Asthma attacks are triggered by a variety of factors:

Respiratory infections

Allergic reactions to airborne irritants




Increasing independence and mobility of school-age children lead to safety issues.

Between ages of 5 and 14, rate of injury increases.

Boys more apt to be injured than girls.

Most frequent source of fatal injury is automobile accidents, followed by fires and burns, drowning, and gun-related accidents.

Bicycle accidents also growing, especially on busy streets.

Psychological Disorders

Childhood psychological disorders often have different symptom patterns than adult disorders.

5 % of preteens suffer from depression.

13% of children from 9 to 17 experience an anxiety disorder.

Children are prescribed medications that have not been approved for use in children.

Parents should monitor antidepressant use, especially for suicide risk.

Children With Special Needs

One student in a thousand requires special education services relating to VISUAL IMPAIRMENT, legally defined as difficulties in seeing that may include blindness (less than or 20/200 after correction) or partial sightedness (20/70 after correction).

AUDITORY IMPAIRMENT, a special need that involves the loss of hearing or some aspect of hearing, affects one to two percent of school-age children and can vary across a number of dimensions.

Auditory impairments are sometimes accompanied by SPEECH IMPAIRMENTS, speech that is impaired when it deviates so much from the speech of others that it calls attention to itself, interferes with communication, or produces maladjustments in the speaker.

3 to 5 %of school-age children have speech impairments.

STUTTERING is the most common speech impairment.

Children with Special Needs (continued)

Some 2.3 million school-age children in the U.S. are officially labeled as having LEARNING DISABILITIES, difficulties in the acquisition and use of listening, speaking, reading, writing, reasoning, or mathematical abilities.

LDs are diagnosed when there is a discrepancy between children’s actual academic performance and their potential.

Some suffer from dyslexia, a reading disability that can result in the reversal of letters during reading and writing, confusion between left and right, and difficulties in spelling.

Children with Special Needs (continued)

ATTENTION-DEFICIT HYPERACTIVITY DISORDER (ADHD) is a learning disability marked by inattention, impulsiveness, a low tolerance for frustration, and generally a great deal of inappropriate activity.

3 to 7 percent of school-age children are estimated to have ADHD.

Ritalin or Dexadrine are stimulants used to reduce hyperactivity levels in children with ADHD.

Intellectual Development: Piaget

The school-age child enters the CONCRETE OPERATIONAL STAGE, the period of cognitive development between 7 and 12 years of age. Children can apply logical operations to concrete problems.

Characterized by the active and appropriate use of logic.

Children at this stage can easily solve conservation problems—logic used over appearance.

For example, whether the amount of liquid stays the same although poured into different shaped containers.

Because they are less egocentric, they can decenter (take multiple aspects of a situation into account).

They also have the concept of reversibility.




Concrete Operations, continued

Children at this stage can understand such concepts as relationships between time and speed…


Concrete Operations, continued

Despite the obvious advances that occur during the concrete operational stage, children still experience a big limitation in their thinking: They are still tied to concrete physical reality and have no understanding of abstract or hypothetical logic. They cannot think conceptually (i.e., think about concepts such as free will or justice).

Vygotsky's Approach to Cognitive Development & Classroom Instruction

Vygotsky's approach has been particularly influential in the development of several classroom practices.

Classrooms are seen as places where children should have the opportunity to try out new activities.

Specifically, Vygotsky suggests that children should focus on activities that involve interaction with others. In cooperative learning, children work together in groups to achieve goals.

Language Development: What Words Mean

Vocabulary continues to increase during the school years.

School-age children's mastery of grammar improves.

Children's understanding of syntax, the rules that indicate how words and phrases can be combined to form sentences, grows during childhood.

Certain phonemes, units of sound, remain troublesome (j, v, h, zh).

Language Development During Middle Childhood (continued)

School-age children may have difficulty decoding sentences when the meaning depends on intonation, or tone of voice.

Children become more competent in their use of pragmatics, the rules governing the use of language to communicate in a social context.

Language helps children control their behavior.

One of the most significant developments in middle childhood is the increase in METALINGUISTIC AWARENESS, an understanding of one's own use of language.

Language Development
During Middle Childhood (continued)

BILINGUALISM is the use of more than one language.

English is a second language for more than 32 million Americans.

Being bilingual may have cognitive advantages:

greater cognitive flexibility.

greater metalinguistic awareness.

may improve scores on IQ tests.

Language Development
During Middle Childhood (continued)

Controversy about what language in which to education non-native speakers of English.

Some believe instruction should be offered in native tongue, because two language give children greater cognitive flexibility.

Many educators believe that all elementary school students should be taught a second language.

Some states, on the other hand, are adopting "English-only" laws.

Schooling in Middle Childhood

School marks the time when society formally attempts to transfer its body of knowledge, beliefs, values, and accumulated wisdom to new generations.

In the U. S., a primary school education is both a universal right and a legal requirement.

More than 160 million of the world's children do not have access to education.

Close to a billion people (2/3 of them women) are illiterate throughout their lives.


Educational Trends

Schooling in the 21st century is changing.

Focus on return to the fundamentals (reading, writing, arithmetic)

Individual accountability stressed (teachers & students)

Increased attention to issues of student diversity & multiculturalism


Multicultural Education

Culture is a set of behaviors, beliefs, values, and expectations shared by members of a particular society.

Subcultural groups are particular racial, ethnic, religious, socio-economic or gender groups within a given culture.

In recent years the goal has been to establish MULTICULTURAL EDUCATION to help minority students develop competence in the culture of the majority group while maintaining positive group identities that build on their original culture.

Multicultural Education Models

The CULTURAL ASSIMILATION MODEL fosters the view of the American society as the proverbial melting pot.

More recent trends are based on the PLURALISTIC SOCIETY MODEL, which is the concept that American society is made up of diverse, coequal cultural groups that should preserve their individual cultural features (tossed salad ).

Multicultural Education Models (continued)

Today, most educators recommend that children develop a BICULTURAL IDENTITY, by maintaining their original cultural identity while integrating into the dominant culture.

Group Differences in IQ

The question of how to interpret differences between intelligence scores of different cultural groups is a major controversy.

If intelligence is primarily determined by heredity and largely fixed at birth, attempts to alter intelligence will not be successful.

If intelligence is largely environmentally determined, modifying social conditions is a promising strategy for increasing intelligence.


The Bell Curve Controversy

Hernstein and Murray, in the book The Bell Curve (1994), argued that IQ is primarily inherited & that ethnic differences in intelligence exist.

Most developmentalists disagree with The Bell Curve.

Environmental factors rather than inherited factors.

Discriminatory/biased test questions.

Less important to know the degree of intelligence related to genetic and environmental factors and more important to improve conditions and experiences so that all children can reach their full potential.

Mainstreaming: Ending Segregation by Intelligence Levels

Public law 94-142 (the Education for all Handicapped Children Act) requires that children with special needs receive a full education in the least restrictive environment (the setting most similar to that of children without special needs).

Supporters of mainstreaming point out that special needs children must ultimately function in a "normal" environment, and greater experience with their peers will help with this.

Mainstreaming, continued

Full inclusion supporters want all students, no matter how severe the disability, to be included in regular classrooms.

Some concern exists that these students may be overlooked in a regular classroom environment.

Mental Retardation

MENTAL RETARDATION, defined as a significantly subaverage level of intellectual functioning that occurs with related limitations in two or more skill areas, is found in approximately 2% of the school-age population.

Mental retardation is typically measured by IQ tests.

Four levels of retardation:





Intellectually Gifted

3 to 5 % of school-age children are GIFTED AND TALENTED, showing evidence of high performance capability in areas such as intellectual, creative, artistic, leadership capacity, or specific academic fields.

Research suggests that gifted students are healthier, better coordinated, psychologically better adjusted, earn more money, and are more accomplished than the "average" person.

Teaching the Gifted and Talented Student


Special programs allow gifted students to move ahead at their own pace, even if this means skipping to higher grade levels.


Students are kept at grade level but are enrolled in special programs and given individual activities to allow greater depth of study in a given topic.