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Personality Development In Middle Childhood

A description of how children ages 6-12 are coming into their personalities

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Affective Development: An Introduction

Affective Development refers to the development of social, emotional, and personality characteristics. For this particular post, I am focusing on the middle childhood age range (6-12 yrs.) and how children are developing a sense of self during that time. I will talk about the Big 5 Personality traits, Freud's Psychoanalytic theory, Erikson's Psychosocial Theory, and Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and how they relate to affective development.

The Big 5 Personality Traits

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Personality is categorized into 5 main characteristics: Agreeableness, Extroversion, Openness, Neuroticism, and Conscientiousness. Most other personality traits fall under the umbrella of these 5, as they are referred to as the "Big 5". While there are an estimated 4,000 total traits, researchers narrowed down the list to these major 5 categories that are thought to be the basis of all human personality. As children move through the middle childhood age, more and more of these Big 5 traits will become apparent and permanent.

Freud's Psychoanalytic Theory

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Also known as psychosexual theory, Sigmund Freud's theory is based on biological drives and impulses. Freud believed that the development of personality was based on the balance of tension and pleasure. Latency, or the phase of the psychoanalytic theory that occurs during ages 6-12, is based on repressed sexual impulses and energy and focuses on interactions with same-sex peers. Researchers nowadays generally don't follow many of Freud's theories, however, as children move through the middle childhood phase and spend most of their time at school, interactions with same sex peers are important to affective development.

Erikson's Psychosocial Theory

Erik Erikson's psychosocial theory involves 8 stages of development that occur throughout the lifespan. The stage during middle childhood, industry vs. inferiority, is a particularly important part of identity development for children. During this stage, children are trying to develop specific competencies and are learning basic cultural skills and norms. This stage is all about the child's feelings toward themselves. Industry is labeled by feelings of self-worth and competence, whereas inferiority is labeled by self-doubt and a lack of desire or ability to be independent. It is important for parents to encourage their children and help them learn these competencies so that they develop that sense of industry. Industry helps the child with self-esteem and self-efficacy. Believing in yourself and believing in your abilities is important for the remainder of your life and is crucial for positive affective development.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

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Maslow's hierarchy of needs is a pyramid documenting the needs of humans in order for them to develop to their full potential. From the bottom to the top, the categories read: Physiological needs, Safety, Belonging and Love, Self-Esteem, Self-Actualization. For your child to be moving up towards the esteem needs in middle childhood, they need to be given things like food, water, shelter, safety, and love. Once they feel confident that they have those things, they will start to focus on their esteem needs. During adulthood is when self-actualization becomes more of a reality. Achieving these needs will not only help children with positive affective development, but will set them up for a more positive adolescent and adult life.

So what?

Affective development is a crucial part of middle childhood. These four theories illustrate some of the things school-aged children are going through at this stage of their development. It is important that parents are not only aware of these, but help their children grow during this time through encouragement and love.

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