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Growth and Development: What Happens in the Final Years of Childhood? Part III

By: Bridgette W. Gottwald, LPC, NCC 

If you read my previous blog posts, this is the final part to the three-part blog series about human growth and development. It discusses the progression from what you need to know about growth and development, the evolution of children’s growth, and the final years of childhood as one slowly approaches adolescence where much of their personality and traits have already developed and are set in stone. 

Amidst middle childhood, which takes place from six to eleven years of age, the growth of children slows significantly from the rate it progressed at a younger age. Though growth slows, children become stronger and their athletic skills improve. Egocentrism reduces while memory and language skills increase as children benefit from formal schooling. Although day-to-day changes are not as evident, there is a surprising difference between six year olds, who still resemble small children, and eleven year olds, who start to look like young adults. There are many physical, cognitive and psychosocial advancements during this age, and children’s brains change as they gradually become more intelligent and aware of their surroundings. Children gain a stronger sense of independence from their families and are able to do everyday things like dress themselves, tie their shoes and catch a ball. Peers become a more central focus, and as self-concept becomes more complex, their self-esteem is affected. Physical, mental and social skills develop quickly, and it is an important time for children to establish confidence in all areas of life such as sports, crafts, friendships and schoolwork. 

Concrete Operations

During this stage, children develop concrete operations, which is the third stage of Piagetian cognitive development. Concrete operations enables children to advance in logical thinking but not abstract thinking. Piaget states that the mental changes that are occurring during young childhood are more drastic than physical changes. Children no longer simply react to the environment as they are able to pro-actively choose to pursue goals. With more logical, organized and flexible thinking styles, children are capable of actually imagining the consequences of something happening as opposed to needing the event to actually happen to understand the consequences. During this phase, children begin to master the concepts of conservation, decentration, reversibility, hierarchical classification, seriation and spatial reasoning. Typically, children become capable of these things without realizing what they are accomplishing. 

Freud’s Take

According to Freud, this stage is referred to as the latency stage of psychosexual development. He believed that the emotional surges of the preceding three stages go into hiding for a few years while the child learns how to suppress, project, introject and channel the psychosexual energies of their earlier development in other ways. 

Erikson’s Take

Erikson claimed that children learn the concept of industry or competence versus inferiority during this stage. The child feels the need to win approval and exemplify specific competencies that are valued by society. With a sense of confidence and encouragement in achieving their goals, children begin to feel a sense of pride in their accomplishments. If this initiative is not encouraged, it causes children to feel inferior in which they doubt their own abilities and do not reach their full potential. 

In reading this three-part blog series, I hope you found yourself able to learn more about yourself, and your development as you approached adolescence. You might have noticed that memories resurfaced, or you could have even been triggered in learning about some of this is particular parts of your childhood were traumatic. Remember to be patience with yourself, accepting of all of your own individualistic experiences and use this knowledge in your favor as knowing oneself is crucial to feeling happy and understood as you settle into your unique place in the world. 

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