Middle Childhood:
Physical & Cognitive
Chapter 9
Development Across the Lifespan
Physical Development
in Middle Childhood: Slow but Steady
~Beginning at about age 6 and
continuing to age 12, children go
through middle childhood. This
period is often referred to as the
"school years".
In what ways do children grow
during the school years, and what
factors influence their growth?
Compared with the swift growth during the
first 5 years, physical growth during middle
childhood is slow but steady.
School-aged children grow, on average, 2
to 3 inches per year.
This is the only time during the life span
when girls are, on average, taller than
By age 11, the average girl is 4' 10".
The average 11-year-old boy is 4' 9 1/2 ".
(physical growth during middle childhood,
During middle childhood, both boys and girls
gain from 5 to 7 pounds a year.
Variations of a half a foot in children the same
age are not uncommon.
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)
Promoting Growth with Hormones: A
Available only the last decade, prototropin
and other artificial human growth hormones
are being taken by over 20,000 abnormally
short children.
Some developmentalists question whether
shortness is serious enough to warrant drug
The drug is costly and may lead to premature
puberty (which can restrict later growth).
These artificial hormones are effective
adding over a foot of height
Nutrition is also linked to physical
development during middle childhood
Proper nutrition is linked to positive
personality traits
more alert
more energy
 more persistent
 more self
More involved with peers
 more positive emotions
more often
 less anxiety
 more investigative
Nutritional Benefits
Children with
more nutritious
diets had more
energy & self
(Nutrition and physical
development during
middle childhood, 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
(Nutrition and physical
development during
middle childhood, continued)
Obesity is defined as body weight that
is more than 20 % above the average
for a person of a given height and
10 % of all children are obese.
This proportion has risen 54 % since
the 1960s
Balanced Diet?
Recent studies have found that children’s diets are almost
opposite the diet recommended by the US department of
agriculture, which can lead to an increase in obesity.
(Nutrition and physical
development during
middle childhood, continued)
Despite growing rates of obesity, American society
places a strong emphasis on thinness.
Concern about weight increasingly borders on
obsession in the United States (especially for girls)
 Research indicates that a substantial number of
6 year old girls worry about becoming “fat”
 40+% of 9 & 10 year olds are trying to
lose weight!
 WHY? Mostly due to our society’s
preoccupation with being slim
Despite the focus on thinness in the U.S., the
number of obese children is increasing.
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.
Even without regular exercise, however, children’s
gross & fine motor skills develop substantially
during the school years.
Fine Motor Skills
 These continue to advance
 Increased levels of myelin around the nerve
cells raise the speed of messages traveling to
Gross Motor Skills
 Important advances, including muscle
 Gender differences likely the result of societal
messages/expectations rather than motor skill
Gross Motor Skills
Gross motor skills continue to develop and
advance across the middle childhood years.
Physical in Middle Childhood: Motor
Development Main Points
School-age children's gross and fine
motor skills develop substantially over
middle childhood.
An important improvement in gross
motor skills is muscle coordination.
Fine motor skills advance because of
increases in the amount of myelin
insulating the brain neurons.
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.
BUT colds are not uncommon during middle
1 in 9 has a chronic, persistent condition
Although life threatening illnesses have
declined over the past 50 years, some chronic
illnesses have become more prevalent
One illness that has increased in
prevalence: Asthma
~ASTHMA, a chronic condition characterized
by periodic attacks of wheezing, coughing,
and shortness of breath, has increased
significantly in the last several decades.
Asthma attacks are triggered by a variety of
respiratory infections
allergic reactions to airborne irritants
(asthma, continued)
Children can use an aerosol
container with special mouthpiece to
spray drugs into the lungs.
Some researchers believe the
increase in asthma is due to
pollution, dust due to better insulated
buildings, and poverty
Rising Rates of Asthma
Sine the 1980’s, the
rate of asthma
among children has
almost doubled!
Pollution, and better
methods of
detecting the
disease are reasons
this is so.
Health during middle childhood:
Psychological Disorders
~ It is important that psychological disorders not be
ignored in school age children (which often
occurs because symptoms are different than
those of adults)
~ Childhood depression is one psychological issue
often overlooked by teachers and parents.
~ 2-5% of school age children suffer from depression
~ For 1 % depression is severe (express suicidal
Health during middle childhood: Psychological
All kids are sad sometimes. This is different
than depression (depth of sadness, length
Childhood depression is also characterized by
the expression of exaggerated fears, clinginess,
or avoidance of everyday activities.
In older children it may produce sulking, school
problems, and acts of delinquency.
It can be treated with a variety of approaches.
Approaches to treating childhood depression…
Psychological Counseling
 Effective!
 Controversial!
 About 200,000 Prozac prescriptions written in
1996 for kids aged 6-12 (a 300% increase over
the previous year!)
 Criticisms: not approved for use with children
and teens; lack of long term effectiveness of
the drug; consequences to developing brains;
lead in for further drug use
Another psychological issue that surfaces during
middle childhood: anxiety disorders
(8-9% of children)
 Intense, uncontrollable anxiety about situations that
most people would not find bothersome
 Specific stimuli (germs, school)
 Generalized anxiety (source can not be pinpointed)
It is important not to ignore psychological issues
during childhood!
disruptive to the child’s life
 children with psychological problems are at
higher risk for future disorders during adulthood
More Impacts on Development:
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).
Visual impairments can also include
the inability to see up-close and
disabilities in color, depth, and light
(Children with Special Needs, continued)
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
The loss may be limited to certain frequencies.
Loss in infancy is more severe than after age 3.
Children who have little or no exposure to the
sound of language are unable to understand or
produce oral language themselves.
Abstract thinking may be affected.
(Children with Special Needs, continued)
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
STUTTERING, a substantial disruption in the
rhythm and fluency of speech 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
the acquisition and use of listening,
speaking, reading, writing, reasoning, or
mathematical abilities.
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
(Children with Special Needs, continued)
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 5 percent of school-age children are
estimated to have ADHD (3.5 million
Americans under age 18!).
Ritalin or Dexadrine are stimulants used to
reduce hyperactivity levels in children with
Overprescribing Ritalin?
U.S. doctors prescribe Ritalin for ADHD more frequently. Some
experts argue the drug is overprescribed.
If a child is suspected of having ADHD
or a learning disability, it is important
that she or he be evaluated by a
Teachers & parents should be alert to
the possibility that speech, auditory,
and visual problems may be impacting
a child (grades, friendships, etc.)
Intellectual Development in Middle Childhood: Piagetian
Approaches to Cognitive Advances
The school-age child enters the CONCRETE
OPERATIONAL STAGE, the period of cognitive
development between 7 and 12 years of age,
Characterized by the active, and appropriate use
of logic.
Children at this stage can easily solve
conservation problems—logic used over
(for example whether the amount of liquid stays
the same although poured into different shaped
(more about Piaget’s views of intellectual
Because they are less egocentric,
they can take multiple aspects of a
situation into account, a process
They attain the concept of
reversibility, realizing that a stimulus
can be reversed, returning to its
original form.
Decentering &
So, during middle childhood, cognitive advances
continue and the development of concrete
operational skills becomes more established.
Children at this stage can
understand such concepts as
relationships between time and
At the beginning of the concrete operational stage,
kids reason that the 2 cars on these routes are
traveling the same speed even though they arrive at
the same time. Later, they realize the correct
relationship between speed & distance.
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
(no understanding of
A brief critique of Piaget’s views of
intellectual development
Piaget is criticized for underestimating
children's abilities and for exaggerating the
universality of the progression through the
Research suggest that Piaget was more
right than wrong.
Cross-cultural research increasingly implies
children universally achieve concrete
operations, and that training with
conservation tasks improves performance.
Conservation Training
Rural Aborigine
children trail
their urban
counterparts in
development of
catch up.
Information Processing in Middle Childhood
Children become increasingly able to handle
information because their memories improve.
MEMORY is the process by which information is
initially encoded, stored, and retrieved.
Encoding is the process by which information is
initially recorded in a form usable to memory.
The information must be stored, or placed and
maintained in the memory system.
Information must be retrieved, located and
brought into awareness.
(Information Processing in Middle Childhood,
continued )
During middle childhood, short-term
memory capacity improves significantly.
META-MEMORY, an understanding about
the processes that underlie memory emerge
and improve during middle childhood.
Children use control strategies, conscious,
intentionally used tactics to improve
cognitive functioning.
Children can be trained to use control
strategies and improve memory.
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.
(Vygotsky's Approach, continued)
Cooperative learning is a strategy used in
education that incorporates several aspects of
Vygotsky's theory (kids work together to achieve
Reciprocal teaching, a technique where students
are taught to skim the content of a passage, raise
questions about its central point, summarize the
passage, and finally, predict what will happen
next, help lead students through the zone of
proximal development.
Significant success rates with raising reading
comprehension levels
Language Development
During Middle Childhood
Vocabulary continues to increase during the
school years.
School-age children's mastery of grammar
Children's understanding of syntax, the rules
that indicate how words and phrases can be
combined to form sentences, grows during
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
understanding of one's own use of language.
(Language Development
During Middle Childhood, continued)
 BILINGUALISM is the use of more than one
English is a second language for more than
32 million Americans.
Being bilingual may have cognitive
greater cognitive flexibility
greater metalinguistic awareness
may improve scores on IQ tests
The Voices of America
The number of U.S. residents over the age of five who speak
a language other than English at home.
(Language Development
During Middle Childhood, continued)
The effectiveness of language immersion
programs where subjects are taught in a foreign
language show mixed results.
All subjects in a school taught in a foreign
~Benefits include increased self esteem
~Negative results common when minority groups
immersed in English only programs
~Positive results when children (especially majority
group children) are learning languages not
spoken by the dominant culture
The Ebonics Controversy
Issues revolving around Ebonics (derived
from combo of ebony and phonics), or
Black English, or African American
Vernacular English raises important issues
that are social as well as linguistic.
The word/concept has been in use since the 1970’s,
but mainstreamed by the Oakland school district
 They declared Ebonics a distinctive language,
ordered initial instruction to be in Ebonics for
those speaking it
 With a month, the board revoked its decision
due to national controversy; the board said
they never meant students to learn anything
other than standard English, but had wanted
recognition that African American students
may need instruction to make the leap from
Ebonics at home to standard English.
(The Ebonics Controversy, continued)
Linguists debate: a dialect of standard
English? Or a language of it’s own with
rules, etc.?
~Most educators/linguists would agree that
any nonstandard English is not an inferior
form of language, but a different one.
The controversy raises important issues about
development: social & linguistic!
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
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.
The Plague of Illiteracy
(Schooling in Middle Childhood, continued)
In developing countries, females receive
less formal education than males.
In developed countries, women still receive
less education than men on average,
particularly in science & technology topics.
-Widespread cultural & parental biases
favoring males over females
When are kids ready for school?
Recent research suggests that age is
not a critical indicator of when children
should start school.
Some research suggests that delaying
children’s entrance into school based on
age may actually be harmful!
~Developmental readiness is a better
measure (family support, etc.)
Reading: Learning Meaning
 Development of reading skill generally occurs in
several broad, frequently overlapping stages.
Stage 0
lasts from birth to the start of first grade
children learn the essential prerequisites for
reading, including identification of the letters in
the alphabet, writing their names, and reading
a few words.
(stages of reading development, continued)
Stage 1
 first and second grade
 is the first real reading, but it is largely
phonological decoding skill where
children can sound out words by
sounding out and blending letters
(Development of reading skill, continued)
Stage 2, typically around second and third
grades, children learn to read aloud with
Stage 3 extends from fourth to eighth
grades where reading becomes a means to
an end and an enjoyable way to learn.
Stage 4 is where the child understands
reading in terms of reflecting multiple points
of view.
(summary table in text)
 There is an ongoing debate among educators
regarding the most effective way to teach reading.
Code-based approaches to reading emphasize
phonics and how letters and sounds are combined to
make words.
Whole-language approaches to reading are based on
the notion that children should learn to read as they
learn to talk, by exposure to complete writing and
being immersed in literature.
The National Research Council, in a landmark
decision in 1998, argued that the optimum approach
was to use a combination of elements from both
Educational Trends
Schooling in the early 2000’s is
 Return to the fundamentals
(reading, writing, arithmetic)
 Individual accountability stressed
(teachers & students)
 Increased attention to issues of
student diversity &
 Demographics in U.S. shifting!
Changes in the Face of America
the year 2050, non-Hispanic
Caucasians will likely become a minority
of the total U.S. population.
Multicultural Education
Culture is a set of behaviors, beliefs, values, and
expectations shared by members of a particular
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
students develop competence in the culture of the
majority group while maintaining positive group
identities that build on their original culture
Multicultural education
is based on several models
fosters the view of the American society as
the proverbial melting pot.
More recent trends are based on the
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
maintaining their original cultural
identity while integrating into the
dominant culture
(the individual as a member of 2
cultures, without having to
Intelligence: Determining Individual Strengths
 INTELLIGENCE is the capacity to understand the
world, think rationally, and use resources
effectively when faced with challenges.
Alfred Binet's pioneering efforts in intelligence
testing left three important legacies.
1) He defined intelligence pragmatically as that
which his test measured,
2) Intelligence tests should be reasonable
indicators of school success.
Binet & Intelligence, continued
3) He invented the concept of IQ, INTELLIGENCE
QUOTIENT, a measure of intelligence that takes
into account a student's mental and
chronological age
(MA ) CA X 100 = IQ.
a. MENTAL AGE is the typical intelligence level
found for people at a given chronological age.
actual age of the child taking the intelligence
Binet & Intelligence, continued
Scores today are deviation IQ scores, so
that the degree of deviation from the
average (100) permits a calculation of the
proportion of people who have similar
2/3 of all people fall within 15 points of the
As scores rise and fall beyond the average
range, the percentage of people falls
Measuring IQ in the Present Day
Intelligence tests today share an underlying
premise that intelligence is composed of a
single, unitary mental ability factor, commonly
called "g".
 3 main assessment instruments used today
is a test that consists of a series of items that
vary according to the age of the person being
(Measuring IQ in the Present Day,
children that provides separate measures of
verbal and performance (or nonverbal) skills as
well as a total score.
provides separate measures of verbal and
performance (or nonverbal) skills as well as a
total score.
The Wechsler
Scales for
items that
assess both
verbal and
Kaufman Assessment Battery for Children takes
another approach to assessing intelligence.
looks at ability to use step-by-step
thinking and integrate stimuli
allows the child to use gestures and
languages other than English, making
testing more valid and equitable for kids
that use English as a second language.
IMPORTANT POINT! Think critically about
assessment instruments (norm groups,
locations, ages, etc.)
What do IQ scores from these tests
Reasonably good predictors of school
NOT good predictors of performance
outside of school
 Frequently inaccurate at predicting
future success, income, etc.!
More than IQ tests: Alternative Conceptions of
 The intelligence tests frequently used in
schools assume that intelligence is a
single, mental ability.
 Many theorists now dispute the notion
that intelligence is unidimensional (that g
or a single unitary mental ability factor
Some developmentalists believe 2 types of
intelligence should be focused on instead:
Some psychologists suggest there are two
kinds of intelligence.
FLUID INTELLIGENCE is the ability to deal with
new problems and situations.
information, skills, and strategies that people
have acquired through education and prior
experiences, and through their previous use of
fluid intelligence
Still Another View of intelligence
Howard Gardner suggests there are 8 distinct
intelligences (that work together at times).
 Musical intelligence
 Bodily kinesthetic intelligence
 Logical mathematical intelligence
 Linguistic intelligence
 Spatial intelligence
table in text)
 Interpersonal intelligence
 Intrapersonal intelligence
 Naturalist intelligence
Another View of intelligence:
Robert Sternberg
 Sternberg suggests that intelligence is best
thought of in terms of information processing
(people store material for later use in solving
intellectual tasks).
Robert Sternberg developed the TRIARCHIC
THEORY OF INTELLIGENCE, which states that
intelligence consists of three aspects of
information processing: componential,
experiential, and contextual.
(Robert Sternberg developed the TRIARCHIC THEORY
The componential element reflects how
people process and analyze information.
The experiential element is the insightful
The contextual deals with practical
intelligence - the demands of everyday
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), argue that IQ is primarily inherited & that
ethnic differences in intelligence exist.
Most developmentalists disagree with The Bell
 Environmental factors rather than inherited
 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.
Below Intelligence Test Norms: Mental
significantly subaverage level of
intellectual functioning that occurs with
related limitations in two or more skill
areas, is found in approximately 1 to 3
percent of the school-age population.
Mentally retardation is typically
measured by IQ tests.
(Mental Retardation, continued)
a. 90 percent are classified as MILD
RETARDATION, where IQ is in the
range of 50 or 55 to 70.
b. can reach 3rd to 6th grade level in
c. can hold jobs and function
(Mental Retardation, continued)
a. 5 to 10 percent are classified as
from 35 or 40 to 50 or 55.
b. slow to develop language and motor skills
c. generally cannot progress beyond 2nd
d. capable of training and social skills but
typically need supervision
(Mental Retardation, continued)
IQs ranging from 20 or 25 to 35 or 40,
where IQ is below 20 or 25 are the
most limited.
b. no speech
c. poor motor control
d. need 24-hour care
Above Intelligence Test Norms: The
Intellectually Gifted
3 to 5 % of school-age children are GIFTED
AND TALENTED, who show evidence of
high performance capability in areas such
as intellectual, creative, artistic, leadership
capacity, or specific academic fields.
Contrary to stereotypes, research shows
that highly intelligent people also tend to
be outgoing, well adjusted, and popular
Above Intelligence Test Norms, continued
 Two approaches to educating the gifted and
talented exist.
ACCELERATION, where special programs allow
gifted students to move ahead at their own pace,
even if this means skipping to higher grade levels.
ENRICHMENT is an approach through which
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.
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
Full inclusion supporters want all
students, no matter how severe the
disability, to be included in regular
Some concern exists that these
students may be overlooked in a regular
classroom environment
Children’s physical & cognitive
development clearly continues in
the middle childhood years.
Review Key terms
& Concepts,
Keep up with your reading!

Middle Childhood: Physical & Cognitive Development