Chapter 10


Social and Personality Development

in Middle Childhood




Chapter Outline



I.        The Developing Self

A.     Psychosocial Development in Middle Childhood:  Industry Versus Inferiority

1.      According to Erik Erikson, middle childhood encompasses the INDUSTRY-VERSUS-INFERIORITY STAGE, the period from ages 6 to 12 characterized by a focus on efforts to attain competence in meeting the challenges presented by parents, peers, school, and the other complexities of the modern world.

B.     Understanding One’s Self:  A New Response to “Who Am I?”

1.      During middle childhood, children begin to view themselves less in terms of external physical attributes and more in terms of psychological traits.

a)      Children realize they are good at some things and not so good at others.

b)      Their self-concepts become divided into personal and academic spheres.

2.      Children use SOCIAL COMPARISON, comparing themselves to the abilities, expertise, and opinions of others.

a)      Festinger proposed that when objective measures are absent, people rely on social reality, how others act, think, feel, and view the world.

b)      Children look to others who are similar to themselves.

c)      Sometimes children make downward social comparisons with others who are obviously less competent or successful to raise or protect their self-esteem.

C.     SELF-ESTEEM, an individual's overall and specific positive and negative self-evaluation, develops in important ways during middle childhood.

1.      Children increasingly compare themselves to others.

2.      Children are developing their own standards.

3.      Self-esteem, for most children, increases during middle childhood.

4.      Children with low self-esteem may become enmeshed in a cycle of failure that is difficult to break.

5.      Parents can help break the cycle of failure by promoting their child’s self-esteem through use of the authoritative child-rearing style.

6.      Early research showed that the self-esteem of minority groups was lower than majority groups due to prejudice and discrimination.

7.      According to social identity theory, if minority groups do not accept the views of their group by the majority group, their self-esteem will not suffer.

D.     Developmental Diversity:  Are Children of Immigrant Families Well Adjusted?

1.      More than 13 million children in the U.S. are children of immigrants.

2.      Children in immigrant families typically do quite well in the U.S.

a)      Some have high socioeconomic status and well-educated families.

b)      They are often highly motivated to succeed and place high value on education.

c)      Immigrant children often come from societies that emphasize collectivism and feel it is their duty to succeed.

E.      Moral Development

1.      Lawrence Kohlberg suggests that people pass through a series of stages in the development of moral reasoning.

a)      Preconventional Morality (Stages 1 & 2) is where people follow unvarying rules based on rewards and punishments.

b)      Conventional Morality (Stages 3 & 4) is where people approach problems in terms of their own position as good, responsible members of society.

c)      Postconventional Morality (Stages 5 & 6) is where universal moral principles are invoked and considered broader than a particular society.

(1)   Kohlberg assessed people's moral reasoning using moral dilemmas.

(2)   According to Kohlberg, people move through these stages in a fixed order.

(3)   Middle childhood is at Stage 1 & 2, the preconventional stage, because of the limits of children's cognitive abilities.

(4)   Kohlberg's theory is a good account of moral judgment but not adequate at predicting moral behavior.

(5)   His theory does not generalize to non-Western cultures.

(6)   Because his theory was based on data from males, it does not accurately explain girls’ development by placing their moral reasoning at a lower level than boys’.

2.      Carol Gilligan suggests that the way boys and girls are raised in our own society leads to differences in moral reasoning.

a)      Boys view morality primarily in terms of justice and fairness.

b)      Girls see morality in terms of responsibility and compassion toward individuals and a willingness to sacrifice for relationships.

c)      Gilligan sees morality in girls developing in three stages.

(1)   Orientation toward individual survival - where females concentrate on what is practical and best for them.

(2)   Goodness as self-sacrifice - where females think they must sacrifice their own wishes to what others want.

(3)   Morality of nonviolence - women come to see hurting anyone as immoral, including themselves.

d)      Not all research finds males and females differing in their moral reasoning.

II.     Relationships:  Building Friendship in Middle Childhood

A.     Friendships influence children's development in several ways.

1.      Friends provide information about the world and other people.

2.      Friends provide emotional support and help kids to handle stress.

3.      Friends teach children how to manage and control their emotions.

4.      Friends teach about communication with others.

5.      Friends foster intellectual growth.

6.      Friends allow children to practice relationship skills.

B.     Although friends and peers become increasingly influential during middle childhood, their influence does not become greater than the influence of parents and other family members.

C.     According to William Damon, children's friendships go through three stages.

1.      Stage 1 (ages 4 – 7)

a)      Children see friends as like themselves.

b)      Children see friends as people to share toys and activities with.

c)      Children do not take into account personal traits.

2.      Stage 2  (ages 8 – 10)

a)      Children now begin to take other's personal qualities and traits into consideration.

b)      Friends are viewed in terms of the kinds of rewards they provide.

c)      Friendships are based on mutual trust.

3.      Stage 3  (ages 11 – 15)

a)      Friendships become based on intimacy and loyalty.

b)      Friendships involve psychological closeness, mutual disclosure, and exclusivity.

D.     Individual Differences in Friendship:  What Makes a Child Popular?

1.      Children's friendships show clear hierarchies in terms of STATUS, the evaluation of a role or person by other relevant members of a group.

a)      High status children have greater access to resources such as games, toys, books, and information.

b)      Lower status children tend to follow the lead of higher status children.

c)      High status children tend to form friendships with high status children and low status children form friendships with other lower status children.

d)      Popularity is a reflection of a child's status.

e)      High status children are more likely to form exclusive and desirable cliques and tend to play with a greater number of children than lower status children.

f)       Lower status children are more likely to play with younger or less popular children.

2.      Popular children have SOCIAL COMPETENCE, the collection of individual social skills that permit individuals to perform successfully in social settings.

a)      They are helpful and cooperative.

b)      They have a good sense of humor.

c)      They have good emotional understanding.

d)      They ask for help when necessary.

e)      They are not overly reliant on others.

f)       They can adapt to social situations.

3.      Another factor that relates to children's popularity is skill at SOCIAL PROBLEM SOLVING, the use of strategies for solving social conflicts in ways that are satisfactory both to oneself and to others.

a)      Kenneth Dodge argues that successful social problem solving proceeds through steps that correspond to children's information-processing strategies:

(1)   Find and identify relevant social cues.

(2)   Interpret and evaluate the social cues.

(3)   Determine possible problem-solving responses.

(4)   Evaluate responses and their possible consequences.

(5)   Choose a response.

b)      Knowing these steps allows adults to intervene and target a child's specific deficits.

c)      Several programs have been developed to teach children social skills.

E.      Gender and Friendships:  The Sex Segregation of Middle Childhood

1.      Avoidance of the opposite sex becomes very pronounced during middle childhood.

2.      Children's friendships are almost entirely sex-segregated.

3.      This sex segregation is seen in nearly all societies.

4.      When the sexes interact it is called "border work", is often romantic, and helps emphasize the clear boundaries between the sexes.

5.      The nature of boys' and girls' friendships are different.

a)      Boys have larger networks of friends than girls do.

b)      Boys have a strict DOMINANCE HIERARCHY, which is composed of rankings that represent the relative social power of those in a group hierarchy.

c)      Boys attempt to maintain and improve their status in the hierarchy, which makes for a style of play known as restrictive play where interactions are interrupted when status is challenged.

d)      Girls focus on one or two "best friends" of relatively equal status.

e)      Conflicts among girls are solved by compromise, ignoring the situation, or giving in.

f)       Girls, however, can be confrontational with other girls not their friends or with boys.

g)      Girls' language is less confrontational and direct than boys'.

F.      Cross-Race Friendships:  Integration In and Out of the Classroom

1.      Children's closest friends tend largely to be with others of the same race.

2.      Whites and African Americans show a high degree of mutual acceptance.

3.      Research supports the notion that contact between majority and minority group members can reduce prejudice and discrimination.

G.     Stopping the Torment:  Dealing with Schoolyard Bullies

1.      According to the National Association of School Psychologists, 160,000 U.S. school children stay home from school each day because they are afraid of being bullied.

2.      Victims of bullies share several characteristics.

a)      Loners who are fairly passive

b)      Cry easily

c)      Lack social skills

3.      90 percent of middle-school students report being bullied at some point in their time at school, beginning in preschool.

4.      About 15 percent of students are bullies.

a)      Half of all bullies come from abusive homes.

b)      They tend to prefer violent television.

c)      They misbehave at home more than other children.

d)      When caught, they lie and show little remorse.

e)      They are more likely to break the law as adults.

5.      Victims of bullying can be taught to protect themselves and understand the bully’s behavior.

6.      Bullies need to be taught the importance of a caring, warm environment and to exercise social skills.

III.   The Family and School:  Shaping Children’s Behavior in Middle School

A.     Family:  The Changing Home Environment

1.      During middle childhood, children move from being almost completely controlled by their parents to increasingly controlling their own destinies.

a)      COREGULATION is a period in which parents and children jointly control children’s behavior.

2.      Siblings also have an important influence on children during middle childhood.

a)      Brothers and sisters can provide support, companionship, and a sense of security.

b)      They can also be a source of strife – sibling rivalry can occur and is most intense when siblings are close in age and the same gender.

c)      Only children are not spoiled and self-centered, but often have higher self-esteem and stronger motivation.

3.      In most cases, children whose parents both work full-time outside the home fare quite well.

a)      Women who are satisfied with their lives tend to be more nurturing at home.

b)      Research shows that children whose parents both work spend essentially the same amount of time with the family, in class, with friends, and at home as children who have a parent at home.

c)      Children may spend more time with their father if their mother works.

4.      SELF-CARE CHILDREN are youngsters who let themselves into their homes after school and wait alone until their parents return from work, previously known as latchkey children.

a)      The consequences of being a latchkey child are not necessarily harmful.

b)      Some children report being lonely.

c)      Some children develop a sense of independence and competence.

d)      Some research shows latchkey children have higher self-esteem because they are helping the family.

B.     Divorce

1.      Only half of children in the U.S. will pass through childhood living with both parents each of whom has been married only once.

2.      School-age children tend to blame themselves for the breakup.

3.      Both children and parents may show several types of psychological maladjustments for 6 months to 2 years after a divorce.

a)      anxiety

b)      depression

c)      sleep disturbances

d)      phobias

4.      Most children will live with their mother and the mother-child relationship may decline temporarily.

5.      After 18 months to 2 years, most children return to their predivorce psychological adjustment.

6.      Twice as many children of divorced parents require psychological counseling as do children from intact families.

7.      Divorce brings a decline to both parents' standard of living.

8.      For some children, living in a home with an unhappy marriage and which is high in conflict has stronger negative consequences than a divorce.

C.     Almost one-quarter of all children under 18 in the U.S. live with only one parent.

1.      Numbers are higher for minority children.

a)      60 percent of African American children live in single parent homes.

b)      35 percent of Hispanic children live in single parent homes.

2.      In the majority of cases, the single parent is the mother.

3.      The consequences of living in a single parent home depend on:

a)      whether the other parent ever lived at home

b)      economic status

D.     BLENDED FAMILIES include a remarried couple that has at least one stepchild living with them.

1.      Experts predict that by 2000, over 50 percent of children born in the last decade will be stepchildren.

2.      Living in a blended family involves role ambiguity, in which roles and expectations are unclear.

3.      School-age children often adjust relatively smoothly to a blended family.

a)      financial status of family improves

b)      more people to share household chores

c)      more social interaction and attention

4.      Not all children adjust well, especially if the new relationship is threatening.

E.      Group Care:  Orphanages in the 21st Century

1.      The term "orphanage" has been replaced by group home or residential treatment center, which are group homes used for youngsters whose parents are no longer able to care for them adequately.

a)      The number of children in group care has growth over 50 percent since 1987.

b)      About three-quarters of children in group homes are victims of abuse and neglect.

c)      Most will eventually return home, however, one-fourth will be in group care throughout childhood.

d)      Experts disagree on the advantages and disadvantages of group care.

(1)   Some see them as a solution to unwed mothers who become dependent on welfare.

(2)   Many who work in these homes say they cannot provide adequate love and support as a family could.

(3)   They cost ten times as much as foster care or welfare (e.g., $40,000/yr.)

F.      School:  The Academic Environment

1.      During the school year, more of the day is spent in a classroom than anywhere else and schools have a large influence on children's lives.

2.      Bernard Weiner proposed a theory of motivation based on people's ATTRIBUTIONS, their understanding of the reasons behind their behavior.

3.      People attempt to explain their behavior in one of three ways.

a)      Whether the cause is internal (dispositional) or external (situational).

b)      Whether the cause is stable or unstable.

c)      Whether the cause is controllable or uncontrollable.

4.      The attributions children make about their successes and failures in school have important implications for their performance.

a)      If success is internal, children feel pride.

b)      If failure is internal, children feel shame.

c)      If success or failure is attributed to stable characteristics, children can expect similar results in the future.

d)      If success or failure is attributed to unstable characteristics (such as luck), their expectations for the future are unknown.

e)      If children feel failure was within their control, they feel anger.

f)       If children feel failure was due to uncontrollable reasons, they felt sadness or pity.

5.      Race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status have strong influences on attributions of success and failure.

a)      African American children are less likely to attribute success to internal causes, feeling that prejudice and discrimination are to blame.

b)      Women tend to attribute failure to low ability and success to luck.

6.      Developmental Diversity:  Cultural Differences in Attributions for Academic Performance:  Explaining Asian Academic Success

a)      In Asian countries, academic success is perceived as being caused by hard work..

7.      Research suggests a TEACHER EXPECTANCY EFFECT, the cycle of behavior in which a teacher transmits an expectation about a child and thereby actually brings about the expected behavior.

a)      This is an instance of self-fulfilling prophecy, in which a person's expectation is capable of bringing about an outcome.

b)      Teacher's expectations are conveyed to the child by complex verbal and nonverbal cues.

(1)   Classroom social-emotional climate.

(a)    smiling

(b)   warmth

(2)   Feedback

(a)    more positive feedback to high expectation children

(b)   more criticism to low expectation children

(3)   Input to children

(a)    more opportunities to perform well for high expectation children

(b)   more difficult material for high expectation children

(4)   Output from teachers

(a)    more contact with high expectation children

(b)   more opportunities to respond in class for high expectation children.

8.      Schools are beginning to teach techniques to increase students EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE, the set of skills that underlie the accurate assessment, evaluation, expression, and regulation of emotions.

a)      Children are taught assessment, evaluation, expression, and regulation of emotions.

b)      They are also provided with lessons in empathy, self-awareness, and social skills.

c)      Critics suggest that nurturance of emotional intelligence is best left to students families and that schools should concentrate on the basics.

d)      Most consider emotional intelligence worthy of nurturance.




Key Terms and Concepts




Industry-versus-inferiority stage

Social comparison



Social competence

Social problem-solving

Dominance hierarchy


Self-care children

Blended families


Teacher expectancy effect

Emotional intelligence