Chapter 7- Middle Childhood
Body and Mind
A Healthy Time
• The average 7- to 11-year-old gains about
2 inches (5 centimeters) and 5 pounds
(2.2 kilograms) per year.
• Healthy 7-year-olds tend to be agile and
neither too heavy nor too thin.
• After age 6, the rate of muscle growth
slows. Children master any motor skills
that don’t require adult-sized bodies.
A Healthy Time
• A chronic disease of the respiratory system in
which inflammation narrows the airways from the
nose and mouth to the lungs, causing difficulty in
breathing. Signs and symptoms include wheezing,
shortness of breath, chest tightness, and
• Some experts suggest a hygiene hypothesis for
the current increase in all allergies, from peanuts
(an allergen for about 1 percent of U.S. children)
to cockroach droppings (a trigger for asthma).
A Healthy Time
• Many 7- to 11-year-olds eat too much, exercise too little, and
become overweight or obese as a result.
• Body mass index (BMI)- The ratio of weight to height,
calculated by dividing a person’s body weight in kilograms by
the square of his or her height in meters.
• Overweight- In an adult, having a BMI of 25 to 29. In a child,
having a BMI above the 85th percentile, according to the U.S.
Centers for Disease Control’s 1980 standards for children of a
given age.
• Obesity- In an adult, having a BMI of 30 or more. In a child,
having a BMI above the 95th percentile, according to the U.S.
Centers for Disease Control’s 1980 standards for children of a
given age.
A Healthy Time
Physical Activity
Better overall health, including less asthma
Less obesity
Appreciation of cooperation and fair play
Improved problem-solving ability
Respect for teammates and opponents of
many ethnicities and nationalities
A Healthy Time
But there are hazards as well:
Loss of self-esteem because of critical
teammates or coaches.
Injuries (the infamous "Little League
elbow" is one example).
Prejudice (especially against the other
Increases in stress (evidenced by altered
hormone levels, insomnia.
Theories About Cognition
Piaget and School-Age Children
• Concrete operational thought- Piaget’s
term for the ability to reason logically about
direct experiences and perceptions.
• Classification- The logical principle that
things can be organized into groups (or
categories or classes) according to some
characteristic they have in common.
• Transitive inference- The ability to figure out
(infer) the unspoken link (transfer) between
one fact and another.
Theories About Cognition
• Seriation- The idea that things can be arranged in
a series. Seriation is crucial for understanding the
number sequence.
• Contemporary developmentalists find that, in
some ways, Piaget was mistaken. The research
does not confirm a sudden shift between
preoperational and concrete operational thought.
• What develops during middle childhood is the
ability to use mental categories and subcategories
flexibly, inductively, and simultaneously.
Theories About Cognition
Vygotsky and School Age Children
Whereas Piaget emphasized the child’s discovery,
Vygotsky regarded instruction as essential.
In guiding each child through his or her zone of
proximal development, or almost-understood
ideas, other people are crucial.
Children are "apprentices in learning" as they
play with each other, watch television, eat dinner
with their families, and engage in other daily
Language is integral as a mediator, a vehicle for
understanding and learning.
Theories About Cognition
Information-processing theory
• A perspective that compares human thinking processes,
by analogy, to computer analysis of data, including
sensory input, connections, stored memories, and
• Selective attention- The ability to concentrate on some
stimuli while ignoring others.
• Automatization- A process in which repetition of a
sequence of thoughts and actions makes the sequence
routine, so that it no longer requires conscious thought.
• Reaction time- The time it takes to respond to a
stimulus, either physically (with a reflexive movement
such as an eye blink) or cognitively (with a thought).
Theories About Cognition
• Sensory memory- The component of the
information processing system in which incoming
stimulus information is stored for a split second to
allow it to be processed. (Also called the sensory
• Working memory- The component of the
information processing system in which current,
conscious mental activity occurs. (Also called shortterm memory.)
• Long-term memory- The component of the
information processing system in which virtually
limitless amounts of information can be stored
Theories About Cognition
• Working memory improves steadily and
significantly every year from age 4 to 15 years.
• The capacity of long-term memory is virtually
limitless by the end of middle childhood.
• Memory storage (how much information is
deposited in the brain) expands over childhood,
but more important is retrieval (how readily stored
material can be brought into working memory).
• As the prefrontal cortex matures, children are
better able to use strategies to help them
• Retrieval becomes more efficient and accurate.
Theories About Cognition
• Metacognition- "Thinking about thinking";
the ability to evaluate a cognitive task in
order to determine how best to accomplish
it, and then to monitor and adjust one’s
performance on that task.
• Metamemory- The ability to understand
how memory works in order to use it well.
Metamemory is an essential element of
Learning in School
Teaching Values
In some nations, every public school teaches religion.
In the United States, most children who attend private
school (10 percent) or who are home-schooled (2
percent) learn specific religious content.
Among the other specifics taught in some schools are
evolution and sex education, both ideas that most
Americans want children to learn but some parents do
Hidden curriculum- The unofficial, unstated, or
implicit rules and priorities that influence the academic
curriculum and every other aspect of learning in
Learning in School
Learning Language
• By age 6, children know most of the basic
vocabulary and grammar of their first
language, and many speak a second or
even a third language.
• Some school-age children learn as many
as 20 new words a day and apply
grammar rules they did not use before.
Learning in School
• Directly related to language learning is another
capacity of the school-age child, the ability to switch
from one manner of speaking, or language code, to
• Each language code differs in tone, pronunciation,
gesture, sentence length, idiom, grammar, and
• Sometimes people switch from the formal code (used
in academic contexts) to the informal code (used with
• Many children use a third code in text messaging, with
numbers (411), abbreviations (LOL), and emoticons
Learning in School
Learning Language
• Should immigrant children be required to speak only
Standard English in school right from the beginning, or
should they be educated in their native language in the
early grades?
• English-language learner (ELL)- A child who is
learning English as a second language.
• In the United States, some school districts offer
bilingual education (teaching in two languages); others
provide ESL (English as a second language)
instruction; and others offer only immersion, in which
children are taught exclusively in a language that is
not spoken at home.
Learning in School
The Reading Wars
• Phonics approach- Teaching reading by first
teaching the sounds of each letter and of
various letter combinations.
• Whole-language approach- Teaching
reading by encouraging early use of all
language skills-talking and listening, reading
and writing.
• A focus on phonics need not undercut
instruction that motivates children to read,
write, and discuss with their classmates and
their parents.
Learning in School
The Math Wars
• Historically, math was taught by rote; children
memorized number facts, such as the
multiplication tables, and filled page after
page of workbooks.
• In reaction against this approach, many
educators, inspired especially by Piaget and
Vygotsky, sought to make math instruction
more active and engaging- less a matter of
memorization than of discovery.
Measuring the Mind
• Aptitude- The potential to master a specific
skill or to learn a certain body of knowledge.
• IQ test- A test designed to measure
intellectual aptitude, or ability to learn in
school. Originally, intelligence was defined as
mental age divided by chronological age,
times 100--hence the term intelligence
quotient, or IQ.
• Achievement test- A measure of mastery or
proficiency in reading, mathematics, writing,
science, or some other subject.
Measuring the Mind
Measuring Aptitude
• The most important aptitude for school-age children is
intellectual aptitude, or the ability to learn in school, which
is usually measured by an IQ test.
• Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC)- An IQ
test designed for school-age children. The test assesses
potential in many areas, including vocabulary, general
knowledge, memory, and spatial comprehension.
• Flynn effect - The rise in average IQ scores that has
occurred over the decades in many nations.
• Mental retardation- Literally, slow, or late, thinking. In
practice, people are considered mentally retarded if they
score below 70 on an IQ test and if they are markedly
behind their peers in the ability to meet the basic
requirements of daily life.
Measuring the Mind
Measuring Achievement Within the United
• No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act- A U.S. law
enacted in 2001 that was intended to increase
accountability in education by requiring states to
qualify for federal educational funding by
administering standardized tests to measure
school achievement.
• National Assessment of Educational Progress
(NAEP)- An ongoing and nationally representative
measure of U.S. children’s achievement in
reading, mathematics, and other subjects over
time; nicknamed "the nation’s report card."
Measuring the Mind
International Achievement Test Scores
• Literacy Study (PIRLS)- Inaugurated in 2001, a
planned five-year cycle of international trend studies in
the reading ability of fourth-graders.
• Trends in Math and Science Study
(TIMSS)- An international assessment of the math and
science skills of fourth- and eighth-graders. Although the
TIMSS is very useful, different countries’ scores are not
always comparable because sample selection, test
administration, and content validity are hard to keep
Measuring the Mind
Developmental Psychopathology
• The field that uses insights into typical
development to understand and remediate
developmental disorders, and vice versa.
• Children with special needs- Children who,
because of a physical or mental disability,
require extra help in order to learn.
• Education of children with special needs is
most beneficial when it begins early; but
availability of programs varies within and
among nations.
Measuring the Mind
Measuring the Mind
Several lessons from developmental
psychopathology apply to everyone:
1. Abnormality is normal. Most people
sometimes act oddly, and those with serious
disabilities are, in many respects, like everyone
2. Disability changes year by year:
Someone who is severely disabled at one stage
may become quite capable later on, or vice
Measuring the Mind
3. Adulthood may be better or worse
than childhood. Prognosis is difficult. Many
infants and children with serious disabilities that affect
them psychologically (e.g., blindness) become happy
and productive adults. Conversely, some conditions
become more disabling at maturity, when interpersonal
skills become more important.
4. Diagnosis depends on the social
context. According to the widely used Diagnostic and
Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR),
"nuances of an individual’s cultural frame of reference"
must be considered before a diagnosis is
rendered(American Psychiatric Association, 2000, p.
Measuring the Mind
• Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
(ADHD)- A condition in which a person is
inattentive, impulsive, and overactive and
thus has great difficulty concentrating for
more than a few moments.
• Comorbidity- The presence of two or
more unrelated disease conditions at the
same time in the same person.
Measuring the Mind
• Learning disability- A marked delay in a
particular area of learning that is not
caused by an apparent physical disability,
by mental retardation, or by an unusually
stressful home environment.
• Dyslexia- Unusual difficulty with reading;
thought to be the result of some
neurological underdevelopment.
Measuring the Mind
• Autistic spectrum disorder- Any of several
disorders characterized by impaired
communication, inadequate social skills, and
unusual patterns of play.
• Autism- A developmental disorder marked
by an inability to relate to other people
normally, extreme self-absorption, and an
inability to acquire normal speech.
• Asperger syndrome- An autistic spectrum
disorder characterized by extreme attention
to details and deficient social understanding.

Invitation to the Life Span by Kathleen Stassen Berger