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Middle Childhood Development

Here are some aspects of middle childhood development that are important concepts I learned in HDFS 305 at UIUC.

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School Readiness

There are a lot of aspects that can determine whether or not a child meets school-readiness standards, especially in terms of cognitive abilities. The child should have pre-literacy and numeracy skills that are sufficient enough for Kindergarten, like being able to write his own name and recognizing shapes, letters, and numbers. School readiness is important for the child, because the transition into elementary school could be the perfect time to intervene if the child is at-risk, and it could help prevent later difficulties in school if there is early intervention. Recognizing the variability among children is important to finding what can be beneficial for each child’s needs in school. If a child is at-risk and not ready for the curriculum of Kindergarten, they will find school very difficult and fall behind, often feeling confused like the child pictured above.

Motor Development

Motor development occurs in middle childhood for both fine motor skills and gross motor skills. Gross motor skills involve agility, flexibility, and balance, while fine motor skills refer to control and precise use of the hands and feet. There are specific motor movements that are refined and used often during middle childhood, and they include running, jumping, throwing, and balancing. Levels of physical activity also peak in middle childhood. Physical activity is at its highest during the same period that a child’s cerebellum is pruning synapses and dendrites. The cerebellum is the part of the body responsible for gross and fine motor skills, so the high levels of physical activity help to alter brain activity. Without the development of gross motor skills, a child might lack coordination and not be able to catch a volleyball, thus getting hit in the head like Lisa Simpson.

Emotional Development

Emotion is a discrete, coordinated change in physiological, behavioral, and subjective experience in response to stimuli. During middle childhood, self-conscious emotions take on more importance. These are feelings that involve injury of one’s sense of self. Examples include shame, guilt, embarrassment, or envy. School-age children also learn empathy and sympathy. Empathy is understanding of another’s emotional state and sympathy is care and concern for someone else’s distress. The image is an example of a child who has not yet learned empathy or sympathy. He is making fun of someone else for crying instead of understanding how he is feeling. Making fun of someone for crying can cause the other person to feel a self-conscious emotion, like embarrassment.

Sibling Relationships

Sibling relationships are often the most long-lasting family relationship, but it can also be the biggest source of conflict within family. In the picture above, there are a brother and sister who are fighting by throwing food at each other. Sibling conflict is most common in middle childhood. Opposite-gender siblings also often engage in more conflict than two siblings who are the same gender, and that is displayed with the brother-sister fight shown above. Siblings closer in age also tend to have more disagreements than ones who are many years apart. Siblings in middle childhood tend to fight most about personal possessions, privacy, and parental attention.

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