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What To Expect In Middle Childhood

Between the ages of six and twelve, kids reach many developmental milestones. It is important to understand development during this time period because adults can then monitor and decide what kinds of behaviors are normative or not.

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More Time With Friends

Dmitriy Shironosov / Getty Images

During middle childhood, kids will typically want to spend more time with friends than with adults. Children, just like everyone else, want to satisfy their sense of belonging and they do so by spending time with peers. According to Sullivan’s Theory of Interpersonal Relationships, relationships with others influence development. Specific to middle childhood, the need for companions leads to socialization development and moving toward forming close relationships with peers. Boys often have extensive relationships and tend to play in larger groups outdoors and are often focused on competition and dominance. On the other hand, girls tend to have intensive relationships and play in pairs or small groups indoors and are more exclusive than boys.

Non-Typical Family Units

Since the 1960’s, two-parent families have been on the decline and non-traditional families have been rising. Some types of families that are defined as “non-traditional families” include second marriages, single or no parent households, and adoptive families among a number of others. Despite the type of family, all families are systems and children are interdependent with family members. The functioning of families is related to the children’s functioning. Especially in middle childhood, it is crucial that the key needs are met. Key needs include food, shelter, clothing, safety, security, and fostering a sense of emotional security. Families can help positively influence affective development, facilitate positive peer relationships, and connect children to the wider community.

Physical Activitiy

During middle childhood, children are continuously developing both fine and gross motor skills. Gross motor skills include those of agility, flexibility, and balance. These skills become more specific and integrated with time. On the flip side, fine motor skills revolve around control and precise use of the hands and feet. Only about 25% of children and adolescents meet the daily recommendation of 60 minutes of moderate to rigorous activity. The most common way kids are able to get in physical exercise is through sports. It is important for kids to be active because it has a number of benefits for other aspects of development. For example, physical activity can help academic performance because it helps to improve attention in the classroom. Obesity is also a growing problem that affects about 18% of 6-11-year-old children. Obesity in childhood is predictive of obesity later in life and can also lead to both physical and mental health risks.

Sibling Rivalry

Sibling relationships are the most long-lasting family relationships but they are also the most frequent and intense source of conflict within families. It is normal for siblings to fight and in fact, sibling conflict peaks in middle childhood and usually declines by adolescence. Opposite gender siblings often engage in more conflict than same gender dyads. Additionally, the closer in age siblings are, the more conflict they are expected to have Changes in interactions between siblings occurs due to changes in development. With age, children become more aware of ones’ individuality which can lead to social comparison and power differences. Kids also experience increased language and cognitive skills which create more sophisticated arguments and comebacks. Furthermore, increased social skills allow children to better manipulate their siblings. The reason behind fights can range from fighting over personal possessions to privacy and even to quarreling for parental attention and jealousy. While conflict may be harmful, it can be beneficial in teaching children how to solve problems.

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