Middle Childhood Development Theory Introduction

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This topic center provides a review of theories of child development for children aged 8-11. For information on parenting and child development of infants aged 0 to 2, please visit our Infant Parenting and Child Development topic center. For information on parenting and child development of preschool children (early childhood aged 3 to 7, please visit our Early Childhood Parenting and Child Development topic center. For information on parenting adolescents (ages 12-24), please visit our Child Development Theory: Adolescence topic center.

This document describes children's physical, mental, emotional, moral, and sexual development during the middle childhood years occurring between approximately ages 8 and 11. It is part of our Child Development and Parenting series exploring what we know about how children grow and what they need from parents in order to develop healthfully from birth through adolescence. Other documents in this series include our Overview of Child Development, Infant Child Development and Parenting and Early Childhood Development and Parenting. You may wish to click over to one of these documents if they might better address your present child-development or parenting related interest.


You may want to review some child development theories and concepts before proceeding. Child development is a broad field, encompassing physical as well as intellectual and emotional growth. Physical growth can be easily observed and measured with simple tools such as a scale or measuring tape. However, mental, emotional, social, and moral growth are more difficult to measure and appreciate. Though children do clearly progress over time in their development of these less physical attributes, the ways that these changes reveal themselves are subtle and complicated. Child development experts have come up with a variety of abstract theories in order to make it possible to describe, discuss and measure growth and development patterns occurring in these areas. In the present article, we make an assumption that you are already somewhat familiar with these theories, including theories associated with Erickson, Piaget, Vygotsky, Kohlberg and Brofenbrenner. If you have not done so already, we encourage you to take a look at our Child Development Overview article which begins the series. The present document builds upon theories, concepts and ideas introduced by these authors which were first introduced and described there.

Following the pattern established in prior child development documents, we start by describing the ways that middle-childhood-aged children change physically, and then go on to describe similar changes that children experience with regard to their intellectual and cognitive development (including their language skills), and their social, emotional and moral developments. We end the document with a discussion of middle-childhood-aged children's changing ideas about sexuality and sexual identity as they approach and enter puberty.

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