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Peer Relationships In Middle Childhood

Middle childhood brings on many new aspects for children and peer relationships are a major one as the children are developing their identity, emotion regulation, and social skills.

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Increased time with peers

Children in middle childhood are attending formal schooling for the first time which means they are increasing their time with same-aged peers. This will result in an increase in peer relationships and more specifically friendships which are relationships involving mutual liking and spending time together. During middle childhood, children are engaged in extracurricular activities which further increases peer interaction.


During middle childhood, a sense for belonging emerges and leads children to socialize and form friendships. Sullivan's Theory of Interpersonal Relationships explains that relationships influence development and specifically in middle childhood, these relationships are fulfilling childrens' social needs. The friendships often start at school, specifically in the classroom, as the children are with the same group of peers all day, and can be further developed outside of school at playdates or extracurricular activities.


In the earlier stages of middle childhood, friends will often engage in play that is unstructured or spontaneous, such as playing at the park. Once the children are slightly older, they will become more involved in play that is cooperative, organized activities and games. As children get older, afterschool organized activities such as youth sports become a common place children make friends. Friendships may be a result of any of these activities or they may develop further with these activities as children also join activities that their friends participate in. As far as genders in friendships, boys will often play in larger groups and in an outdoor setting while girls tend to play indoors in smaller groups.


Development of peer relationships in middle childhood is essential to child development. With peer relationships, children learn loyalty, caring, and social skills. Even more, children are learning prosocial behaviors that will stick with them throughout development. Friendships have also been found to affect academic achievement positively, as well as promote cooperative behaviors, lower aggression, and involvement in school-related activities.

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