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Physical and Cognitive Development in Middle Childhood
Chapter 9
Robert S. Feldman
See How We Grow!
Slow but steady…
Height changes: 2-3 inches/year
Only time in lifespan when on average girls taller than boys
Variation in heights up to 6 inches not unusual
Weight changes: 5-7 lbs./year
Weight redistributed, become more muscular

Cultural Patterns of Growth
Sufficient or insufficient nutrition
Genetic inheritance
Familial stress

Consequences of Inadequate Nutrition
Undernutrition is implicated in more than half of all child deaths worldwide
Undernourished children:
Lowered resistance to infection
More likely to die from common childhood ailments and respiratory infections
Frequent illness that impacts growth
Benefits of Adequate Nutrition
Relationship to social and emotional functioning
More peer involvement
More positive emotions
Less anxiety
More eagerness to explore new environments
More persistent in frustrating situations
Generally higher energy levels

Most common causes are combination of:
Genetic factors
Lack of physical activity
Unhealthy eating patterns

Only in rare cases is being overweight caused by a medical condition such as a hormonal problem.
In US over past 20 years, obesity has increased 54% in 6-11-yr-olds & 39% in 12-17-yr-olds.
Costs of Childhood Obesity
The other side of “fat”
Even very young children are aware of society's fixation on thinness
Lowered self-esteem has been associated with being overweight in girls as young as 5
Attitude was closely correlated with parents' perceptions

Gross Motor Development
Improved muscle coordination
Do boys and girls differ in motor skills?
Gender differences in gross motor skills became increasingly pronounced during middle childhood,
Boys outperform girls
Little or no difference when equal participation in exercise/activities
Influenced by societal expectations
But American Academy of Pediatrics says no reason to separate boys & girls in activities until puberty
Fine Motor Development
By 6-7 can tie shoes & fasten buttons
By 8 can use hands independently
By 11-12 have almost adult abilities
Necessary for wide range of school-related tasks
Influenced by increase in amount of myelin speeds up electrical impulses between neurons
Health and School-agers
Middle childhood is period of robust health
Routine immunizations have produced considerably lower incidence of life-threatening illnesses
More than 90% of children in middle childhood have at least one serious medical condition but most are short-term illnesses.
15 million US children
Periodic attacks of wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath
Theories about increase:
Increased air pollution
More accurate diagnosis
Exposure to “asthma triggers”

Other Health Risks
Motor vehicles
Fires and burns
Gun-related deaths
Reduced by use of seatbelts and helmets
Safety in Cyberspace
Newest threat to the safety of school-age children comes from Internet and the World Wide Web
Parent and Caregiver Resources:
The Serious Risks of Cyberspace
Child Safety on the Information Highway
Risks Online
Safety Net for the Internet: A Parent's Guide
Identifying the Problem
Psychological disorders in children overlooked for years
1 in 5 children & adolescents
13% ages 9-17 anxiety disorders
5% preteens suffer from depression
Symptoms inconsistent from those of adults
Antidepressant drugs used for treatment have never been approved by governmental regulators for use with children

Drugs As Treatment
Depression and other psychological disorders treated successfully using drug
More traditional nondrug therapies that largely employ verbal methods simply are ineffective

Long-term effectiveness of antidepressants with children not known
Use of antidepressants on developing brains and long-term consequences more generally not known
Correct dosages for children of given ages or sizes no known
Key defining features of major depressive disorder in children and adolescents are same as they are for adults

Way symptoms are expressed varies with developmental stage of child

Children with Special Needs
Visual impairments
Auditory impairments
Speech impairments
Learning disabilities
Visual Impairment
Blindness defined as < 20/200
Partial sightedness defined as < 20/70
Other visual problems can affect school work
Most identified early
Auditory Impairment
Can cause academic and social problems
Parts of the body used in speaking and understanding - the brain, nerves, mouth and throat - may be damaged or not developing or working properly
Level of speech-language impairment can range from mild to severe
Severe & early loss associated with difficulties in abstract thinking because limited exposure to language
Speech Impairment
Impairment of speech articulation, voice, fluency, or the impairment or deviant development of language comprehension and/or expression

Impairment of use of spoken or other symbol system that adversely affects educational performance
Substantial disruption in rhythm and fluency of speech

Most common speech impairment; 20% of all children go through stage

No clear-cut answers to the causes of stuttering

Learning Disabilities Discrepancies Between Achievement and Capacity to Learn

Def: Difficulties in acquisition and use of listening, speaking, reading, writing, reasoning, or mathematical abilities
2.8 million children in US (1 in 10)
Dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia

Developmental Reading Disability
Dylexia affects 2 to 8 percent of elementary school children
Reading difficulties
Inability to separate sounds in words
Problems sounding out words
Developmental Writing Disabilities
Writing involves several brain areas and functions (dysgraphia)

Brain networks for vocabulary, grammar, hand movement, and memory must all be in good working order

Developmental writing disorder may result from problems in any of these areas
Developmental Arithmetic Disability
Arithmetic involves recognizing numbers and symbols, memorizing facts, aligning numbers, and understanding abstract concepts like place value and fractions

Any of these may be difficult for children with developmental arithmetic disorders, also called dyscalculia
Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Characterized by:
Inattention, distractibility
Low tolerance for frustration
Great deal of inappropriate activity
Behaviors must:
Be excessive, long-term, and pervasive
Create a real handicap in at least two areas of life
What are the most common signs of ADHD?
Persistent difficulty in finishing tasks, following instructions, and organizing work
Inability to watch an entire television program
Frequent interruption of others or excessive talking
Tendency to jump into a task before hearing all the instructions.
Difficulty in waiting or remaining seated
Fidgeting, squirming

ADHD Treatment Controversy
Ritalin or Dexadrine reduce activity levels in hyperactive children and are routinely prescribe
Effective in increasing attention span and compliance BUT side effects considerable and long-term health consequences unclear
Help scholastic performance in short run BUT long-term evidence for continuing improvement is mixed

Frequency of Drug Use
Are there other treatments for ADD/ADHD?

Behavioral therapy
Reinforcement, teaching task completion
Includes structured classroom activities
Diet can be helpful but insufficient alone
Intellectual Development: Piaget
Concrete operational stage
7 to 12 years of age
Characterized by active and appropriate use of logic
Logical operations applied to concrete problems
Conservation problems; reversibility; time and speed, decentering
How slow can you go?
How does concrete operational thought emerge?
Shift from preoperational thought to concrete operational thought does not happen overnight
Children shift back and forth between preoperational and concrete operational thinking
Once concrete operational thinking is fully engaged, children show several cognitive advances
Information Processing
Increasing ability to handle information
Memory improvement
Short term memory capacity improvement
Metamemory: Understanding about processes that underlie memory
Improves during school age years
Helps children use control strategies (conscious, intentional tactics to improve functioning) like the keyword strategy
Vygotsky’s Approach
Cognitive advances occur through exposure to information within zone of proximal development (ZPD)
Cooperative learning: teams of students use variety of learning activities to improve their understanding of a subject
Reciprocal teaching: dialogue with teacher, students take turns acting as teacher
ZPD in Action!
Can you identify two ways in which the teacher helped children learn in their ZPD?
Mastering the Mechanics of Language in Middle Childhood
Vocabulary continues to increase
Mastery of grammar improves
Understanding of syntax grows
Certain phonemes remain troublesome
Decoding difficulties when dependent on intonation
More competence in pragmatics
Increase in meta-linguistic awareness
Metalinguistic Awareness
One of most significant developments in middle childhood is children’s increasing understanding of their own use of language
By age 5 or 6,
Understand language is governed by set of rules
By age 7 or 8,
Realize that miscommunication be due to factors attributable not only to themselves, but to person communicating with them
How does language promote self-control?
Helps school-age children control and regulate behavior
“Self-talk” used to help regulate behavior
Effectiveness of self-control grows as linguistic capabilities increased
English is second language for 32 million Americans

Immigrants in the United States
Are monolingual speakers of their native language
Develop bilingualism as they acquire English
Establish English-speaking households
Raise their children as English-speaking monolinguals
Cognitive Advantages of Bilingualism
Greater cognitive flexibility
Higher self-esteem
Greater meta-linguistic awareness
Potential improved IQ scores
Schooling Around the World and Across Genders: Who Gets Educated?
Primary school education universal right and legal requirement in US
Children in developing countries may have less access
160 million no primary education; another 100 million don’t progress beyond primary level

Females in these countries receive less formal education than males
Over 1 billion people (2/3 women) illiterate
Education Around the World
Reading: Learning to Decode Meaning Behind Words
No other task that is more fundamental to schooling than learning to read
Reading involves significant number of skills
Low-level skills (ID single letters, associate letters with sounds) to higher-level skills (match words with meaning from memory and use context to determine meaning of a sentence)
Reading Stages
Are We Pushing Too Hard?
From Research to Practice
No Child Left Behind Act (2002) goal of all children reading by 3rd grade
Frequent testing becoming commonplace
Student scores related to federal funding
Reading instruction sometimes replaces recess and other activities
Increase in amount of homework
Some children burn out

But is extra homework worth the cost?
Time spent on homework is associated with greater academic achievement in secondary school
Relationship weaker for the lower grades; below grade 5, the relationship disappears
Even in older children benefits of homework may reach plateau beyond which additional time spent on homework produces no further benefits
Developmental Diversity
Multicultural Education
Cultural Assimilation or Pluralistic Society?
Cultural assimilation model: goal of education to assimilate individual cultural identities into a unique, unified American culture (“melting pot”)
Pluralistic society model: American society should preserve unique features of various cultures (“tossed salad”)

Fostering a Bicultural Identity

School systems encourage children to maintain their original cultural identities while they integrate themselves into dominant culture

More contemporary approaches emphasize a bicultural strategy in which children are encouraged to maintain simultaneous membership in more than one culture
Intelligence: Determining Individual Strengths
How do you define intelligence? Capacity to understand the world, think rationally, and use resources effectively when faced with challenges.
Below Intelligence Norms
Mental Retardation
Public Law 94-142, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act
Least restrictive environment
Mainstreaming – intended to enhance integration into society and positively affect learning
How is mental retardation identified?
American Association on Mental Retardation definition: significant limitations in IQ & adaptive functioning
Familial retardation (majority)
Down’s Syndrome

Above Intelligence Norms

“Gifted & talented”
Federal guidelines ensures educational services to develop capabilities
Research suggests that highly intelligent people tend to be outgoing, well adjusted, and popular
Educating Gifted and Talented Children

Acceleration: move at own pace, even skipping grades
Enrichment: keep at grade level but provide special programs & activities to allow greater depth of study