Emotional and social development: six to twelve

During middle childhood, children move into a broader social world of peers, teachers, other adults and the community. They become more aware of what is socially acceptable and more influenced by peer pressure.

The home remains the place where physical needs are met. Here children get to know themselves and learn how to behave towards others. These skills are important for their social and emotional adjustment outside of home.

As children spend more time at school, they are encouraged to become more independent. Social skills are enhanced and self confidence develops. Interaction with peers also strengthen gender roles, attitudes and values.

Play becomes more complex and structured. Games now have rules which have to be followed closely (e.g. hide-and-seek). Games also become more competitive and teamwork becomes important (e.g. in team sports).

It becomes more important for children to feel that they are accepted by their peers and that they belong to a group. Academic performance and athletic ability greatly influences a child’s status amongst peers. Acceptance and popularity have a huge impact on a child’s self esteem. Unfortunately, children can easily feel lonely and rejected and become more vulnerable to bullying by peers.

According to the psychologist Erik Erikson’s theory of emotional development, children in this age group are faced with the psychosocial crisis called industry versus inferiority. This means that children develop a sense of industry and curiosity and are eager to learn. Successful mastery leads to feelings of efficiency. Parents and teachers should therefore provide opportunities to practise these skills. If children feel that they don’t accomplish something, they feel inferior.

(Ilse Pauw, Health24)

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