Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Middle Childhood: Psychosocial Milestones

Between the ages of 6 and 11, baby will be increasingly more able to self-regulate every day as she takes on more responsibility and shows self-control. She strives for independence and influences your decisions regarding her care. Erikson called this stage industry versus inferiority as she strives to master whatever abilities are valued in her culture. In layman's terms, she spends this time deciding whether she is a winner or a loser.

Freud called this period in life latency. The emotional and psychosexual needs of a 6 to 11 year old are quiet and all the desires submerge until puberty. Generally children this age spend time with friends of the same sex and stay more or less separated from each other.

The self-concept of children in middle childhood develops beyond what their parents think of them. They see themselves as individuals and start to know their own mind. They start to socially compare themselves to their peers, and self-criticism rises as self-esteem dips. Baby might beg for the newest cellphone, fancy new shoes, or the same brand of clothes that everyone else wears. If she feels inferior to her peers, her grades may get lower. If self-esteem is either unrealistically high or too low, you may see aggression as well as low academic achievement.

As a child begins to see similarities and differences in her peers, she accepts herself. After-school activities like sports can provide the friendship and self-esteem she needs.

Children between age 6 and 11 are usually very resilient to stresses in life. Most positively adapt to the stresses in life while others still have some trouble with it. Some children have trouble with the stress of living near an airport that it loud at all hours of the day and night, others can cope with multiple stressors. The daily hassles of life can be problematic if they are allowed to build up over time. One stress shouldn't be a problem at all, but a lot of stress can break a child.

Baby's strength in tough times can depend on her interpretation of the stress (does she think it's her fault?), her ability to develop her own friends and skills, and her extracurriculars. School can be an escape from what a child perceives to be troubles at home, and religious institutions are particularly helpful to children this age in trying times.  Church involvement comes easily to children this age and having adults of the same faith to help them along aids in stressful moments. Most children this age are some of the most devout members of their churches.

Family structure is also very important at this age. The structure includes extended family, stepfamily, and of course the nuclear family with which they live. The family function is the way the family meets the needs of the child. There are five primary functions of a family that help a child thrive in middle childhood: provide basic necessities, encourage learning, help the child develop self-respect, nurture her peer relationships, and ensure harmony and stability.

While there are various family structures, the nuclear family - father, mother, and their biological children under the age of 18 - is by far the most common. A census taken in 2007 showed that 56% of all children in middle childhood reside with their nuclear families. 9% of children 6 to 11 live in a stepparent family and 2% in an adoptive family. 28% live with one parent and only 5% live with either extended family, grandparents alone, a foster family, or homosexual parents.

A blended family is included under stepparent or nuclear family and is a yours, mine, and ours situation. It consists of children born to several families brought together; one or both parents bring children in from previous marriages and add their own biological children. They tend to be wealthier than single-parent families, but emotional instability can breed resentment in the children.

The five functions mentioned above are much more likely to be taken care of when the family has sufficient income. Stress on baby increases whether you notice or not when you are having money troubles. Note, this does not necessarily mean low income, this is any tight moment for your family. It stresses you and baby sees that and becomes stressed herself.

The harmony and stability function is perhaps the most likely to be lacking in the family. Children's well-being declines if there are fights at home, especially between parents. If the fight is resolved, baby learns valuable lessons in reconciliation. If it is not, she may suffer. Transitions also affect children; if the family structure changes in these ages they are more likely to leave home and in adolescence drop out of school, use drugs, break the law, and have early sexual relationships. Often times the children see the problems at home and assume responsibility as caretakers for parents and siblings. This is called parentification.

Getting along with peers at this age is very important for baby. These relationships teach her about negotiation,  compromise, sharing, and defending herself as an equal among peers. They have their own culture, habits, styles, values, rules and rituals separate from the adult society. The culture of children includes keeping secrets from adults and being independent. Gender segregation is maintained at this age but racial prejudice is not. Having friends among peers makes children happier. Surveys show that children this age would rather have loyal friends than be popular.

Bullying is a problem at this age, sometimes creating more bullies. If a victim of bullying is an aggressive-rejected type - antagonistic and confrontational - he or she becomes a bully-victim and are usually the least liked in their peer group. Victims who are withdrawn-rejected are disliked because they are timid and anxious around their peers. Popularity and whether or not a child is bullied usually change year to year. If baby is becoming a bully, she is likely to seem aggressive and deny that she hurts others. If rumors are true, you should speak to baby and work with teachers and counselors to dispel the bullying behavior.

The morality of children is usually high. They are idealistic and believe they can change their circumstances. They weigh rights and wrongs every day. At this age they are mostly good girls and nice boys, obeying the laws set before them. They care for family members, cooperate, and endorse the morals taught by their society and religion.

At this age, baby mostly cares for herself, but you still must guide her. Provide a healthy home environment, befriend her friends and make them comfortable, and if there are any problems, talk to her directly and work with her teachers to help her straighten out.

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