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Social and Personality Development in Middle Childhood
Chapter 10
Robert S. Feldman
Psychosocial Development in Middle Childhood
6 to 12 years of age
Characterized by a focus on efforts to attain competence in meeting the challenges related to:
Other complexities of the modern world

Psychosocial Development in Middle Childhood
Erikson: Industry Versus Inferiority
Industry = feelings of mastery and proficiency and a growing sense of competence
Inferiority = feelings of failure and inadequacy
How do school-agers change ?
Self-concept and self-esteem continue to develop
Children realize they are good at some things and not so good at others
During middle childhood, children begin to view themselves:
Less in terms of external physical attributes
More in terms of psychological traits

Figure 10-1: Looking Inward: The Development of Self
Compared to…
Children use SOCIAL COMPARISON to themselves to abilities, expertise, and opinions of others.
When objective measures are absent children rely on social reality: How others act, think, feel, and view the world
SometimeS children make downward social comparisons to boost their self-esteem.

For most children…
Self-Esteem Cycles
Race and Self-Esteem
Early research: African-Americans had lower self-esteem than whites
Early assumptions were overstated:
African Americans: initially lower, higher by 11
Hispanic Americans: increase toward end of middle childhood, but still lower than whites
Asian Americans: highest of any group in elementary school, but lower than whites by end of childhood
Developmental Diversity
Are Children of Immigrant Families
Well Adjusted?
Tend to have equal or better grades than children with US born parents
Often more highly motivated to succeed and place greater value on education
Show similar levels of self-esteem
Report feeling less popular and less in control of their lives
Moral Development: Kohlberg
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
Carol Gilligan
Way boys and girls raised leads to differences in moral reasoning
Suggests Kohlberg’s theory inadequate and places girls’ moral reasoning at lower level than boys’

Gilligan’s Stages of Morality in Girls
Friends in Middle Childhood
Provide emotional support and help kids to handle stress
Teach children how to manage and control their emotions
Teach about communication with others
Foster intellectual growth
Allow children to practice relationship skills
Damon’s Stages of Friendship
Stage 1 (ages 4-7 years)
Children see friends as like themselves

Children see friends as people to share toys and activities with

Children do not take into account personal traits
Damon’s Stages of Friendship
Stage 2 (ages 8-10 years)
Children now begin to take other’s personal qualities and traits into consideration

Friends are viewed in terms of kinds of rewards they provide

Friendships are based on mutual trust
Damon’s Stages of Friendship
Stage 3 (ages 11-15 years)
Friendships become based on intimacy and loyalty

Friendships involve mutual disclosure and exclusivity

Status Hierarchies
Children’s friendships show clear hierarchies in terms of STATUS

STATUS is the evaluation of a role or person by other relevant members of a group
High Status Children
Form friendships with high status children

More likely to form exclusive and desirable cliques

Tend to play with a greater number of children

Have greater access to resources such as games, toys, books, and information

Low Status Children
Form friendships with other lower status children
Tend to play with a lower number of children than higher status children
Are more likely to play with younger or less popular children
Tend to follow the lead of higher status children
What Personal Characteristics Lead to Popularity? Social competence: collection of individual social skills that permit children to perform successfully in social settings.
Popular Children
Helpful and cooperative
But subset of popular boys display negative behaviors
Good sense of humor
Good emotional understanding
Ask for help when necessary
Not overly reliant on others
Adaptive to social situations
Social problem-solving skill competence
Unpopular Children
Lack social competence
Immature or inappropriately silly
Overly aggressive and overbearing
Withdrawn or shy
Unattractive, handicapped, obese, or slow academically
Unpopular Children
Lack of popularity may take two forms:

NEGLECTED CHILDREN receive relatively little attention from their peers in the form of either positive or negative interaction

REJECTED CHILDREN are actively disliked and their peers may react to them in an obviously negative manner

160,000 U.S. schoolchildren stay home from school each day because they are afraid of being bullied
About 10 to 15 percent of students bully others at one time or another.
About half of all bullies come from abusive homes.
Some 90% of middle-school students report being bullied at some point, beginning as early as the preschool years
Loners who are fairly passive
Often cry easily
Lack the social skills that might otherwise defuse a bullying situation
Sex Segregation of Middle Childhood
Boyfriend, girlfriend…any friend?
Avoidance of opposite sex becomes very pronounced during middle childhood

Children’s friendships are almost entirely sex-segregated

When sexes interact it is called “border work”, is often romantic, and helps emphasize clear boundaries between sexes
Boys and Friendship
Larger networks of friends than girls do


Attempt to maintain and improve status in hierarchy
Restrictive play – interactions interrupted when status is challenged
Girls and Friendships
Focus on one or two “best friends” of relatively equal status
Conflicts solved by compromise, ignoring situation, or giving in
Can be confrontational with other girls not their friends
Language is less confrontational and direct than boys’
Cross-Race Friendships
Closest friendships largely with others of same race
Decline with age in number and depth of friendships outside own racial group
Reducing Prejudice through Contact Between Groups
Must occur in equal status settings

Enhanced through cooperative activities that are important to children

Must promote equality and disconfirm negative stereotypes
Middle Childhood in the 21st Century
In addition to other changes, children experience:
Increasing independence
Coregulation with parents
Sibling relationships and rivalry
Sibs important in shaping future relationships

What about children who have no siblings?
Only children are as well-adjusted as children with brothers and sisters.
In some ways, only children are better-adjusted, often having higher self-esteem and stronger motivation to achieve.

When Both Parents Work Outside the Home: How Do Children Fare?
In most cases, children fare quite well
When parents
Are loving
Are sensitive to their children’s needs
Provide appropriate substitute care
Good adjustment of children relates to psychological adjustment of parents, especially mothers
What do children do all day?
Most time spent in sleeping & school
Next most frequent TV & playing

Major change from 1980 – 2000 in amount of time in unscheduled activity (40% in 1981 vs. 25% by late 90s)
Figure 10-4: How Kids Spend Their Time
Self-Care Children
Youngsters who let themselves into their homes after school and wait alone until their parents return from work
Good or bad?
Consequences not all harmful
Some children report being lonely
Some children develop a sense of independence and competence
Some research shows they have higher self-esteem because they are helping family

The Consequences of Divorce
Only half 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 tend to blame themselves for the breakup.

Most children have minimal long-term consequences.

After the break…
Both children and parents may show several types of psychological maladjustments for 6 months to 2 years:
Sleep disturbances
Rediscovering the Status Quo
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

For some children, living in a home with unhappy marriage and which is high in conflict has stronger negative consequences than divorce
Single Parent Families
Single Parents
Almost one-quarter of all children under 18 in the U.S. live with only one parent, usually mother

Numbers are higher for minority children
60% of African-American children live in single parent homes
35% of Hispanic children live in single parent homes

Consequences of living in single parent home depend on:
Whether other parent ever lived at home
Economic status
Multigenerational Families
Opportunity for rich experiences and conflicts
Greater among African Americans than among Caucasians
In some families, cultural norms tend to be highly supportive of grandparents taking an active role
Grandparents Raising Grandchildren
In 1980, 2.3 million (4%) children under 18 were living in a grandparent(s)' home
Now around 4 million (6%)
Age: half of grandparent caregivers range between 50 and 64 years
46% of these families maintained exclusively by grandmothers (6% by grandfathers)
Yours, mine…ours
BLENDED FAMILIES include remarried couple that has at least one stepchild living with them

Experts predict that by 2000, over 50% of children born in the last decade will be stepchildren

Living in blended family involves role ambiguity, in which roles and expectations are unclear
Blended Families
School-age children often adjust relatively smoothly to a blended family
Financial status of family improves

More people to share household chore

More social interaction and attention

But…not all children adjust well, especially if the new relationship is threatening

Families with Gay and Lesbian Parents
Between one and five million US families headed by two lesbians or two gay parents
Most studies find children:
Develop similarly to children of heterosexual families
Have sexual orientation unrelated to their parents
Have no more or less gender-typed behavior
Seem equally well adjusted
Have similar relationships with their peers and adults
Have romantic relationships and sexual behavior that are no different from those of adolescents living with opposite-sex parents
Poverty and Family Life
Poor families
Fewer basic everyday resources
More disruptions in children’s lives
Higher likelihood of stress
Results for children:
Poorer academic performance
Higher rates of aggression
Conduct problems
Mental health problems
Group Homes…
Term “orphanage” replaced by group home or residential treatment center
Group homes used for youngsters whose parents are no longer able to care for them adequately
Anybody home?
The number of children in group care has growth over 5%

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

Most will eventually return home; however, 1/4 will be in group care throughout childhood
Good or Bad?
Experts disagree on advantages and disadvantages of group care
Some see them as solution to unwed mothers who become dependent on welfare
Many who work in these homes say they cannot provide adequate love and support as family could
Group homes cost ten times as much as foster care or welfare
School: The Academic Environment
How do children explain academic success and failure?
Children attempt to explain their behavior in one of three ways
Whether the cause is internal (dispositional) or external (situational)
Whether the cause is stable or unstable
Whether the cause is controllable or uncontrollable

Attributions matter!
Attributions about school successes and failures have important implications for performance

If success is internal, children feel pride

If failure is internal, children feel shame

If success or failure is attributed to stable characteristics, children can expect similar results in future
If success or failure is attributed to unstable characteristics (such as luck), their expectations for the future are unknown

If children feel failure was within their control, they feel anger

If children feel failure was due to uncontrollable reasons, they fell sadness or pity
Attributional Confounds
Race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status have strong influences on attributions of success and failure
African-American children are less likely to attribute success to internal causes, feeling that prejudice and discrimination are to blame

Women tend to attribute failure to low ability and success to luck

In Asian countries, academic success is perceived as being caused by hard work
Developmental Diversity
Explaining Asian Academic Success
US attribute school performance to stable, internal causes
Japan, China, and other East Asian countries see temporary, situational factors as cause of their performance
Teacher Expectancy Effect
Cycle of behavior in which teacher transmits an expectation about child and thereby actually brings about expected behavior

Self-fulfilling prophecy
From Teacher to Child: How Expectations Are Transmitted
Classroom social-emotional climate – warmth & acceptance
Input to children – given more materials
Output from teachers – more contacts
Feedback – more positive evaluations