childhood is a fascinating time for children, and the adults around them who watch them grow. It is a time of exploration, self construction, and improved understanding. Middle childhood is between the ages of 6 and 8, with some reports extending that age range to as much as 11 years old (CDC 2012). This is the period of the child who is featured in this observation and empirical analysis. She and her two parents live in a suburban neighborhood that can be seen as middle class. She is about six and a half, and has just entered elementary schooling in the context of first grade. As she closes in on her first year of real school, it is clear how the social environment of that school has impacted her overall development.
The observation was carried out in three stages. First, I met her and her mother at a local park, where the young girl was observed playing with friends and other local neighborhood children. This was a good way to begin the observation, because it was in no way awkward, as she was busy with her playtime as I sat close to her mother. It was also a good introduction because I was introduced as a family friend, making the child a little more at ease with my presence. This first session lasted about twenty minutes. The next session was at her school, at her aftercare program. Her mother gave me permission to pick her up from the program, and so I went a little early to observe her spending time with her classmates and friends from school. This was an interesting glimpse at her life outside of the family, because she did not even notice my presence for most of the observation. This gave me an in-depth look at her social interactions with her peers. The third and final observation was conducted at her home, while she was watching one of her favorite shows. Here, I got to see her interact most with her family.
Description of Current Development
Middle childhood sees a number of major physical developments. Children of this age range commonly experience growth spurts, where their height and weight increase (Magna Systems 2008). The child in question has seen some growth, yet she is too close to the beginning of the period to have seen substantial weight or height gain. This was something that she had noticed, based on her experience with her peers. She was always complaining about she was the smallest and stating that when she grows up she will not have to be last in line anymore. Middle childhood is also a time where children see a mastery of their fine and gross motor skills. Fine motor skill improvement is facilitated through games and other types of play, as well as school activities like learning to write. The child did show a mastery of her fine motor skills, as seen on the playground at her afterschool care. She was playing with a bouncy ball that the children were tossing back and forth to each other. She continuously caught it, and even caught it with one hand on several occasions, showing her physical development from earlier stages of childhood. Moreover, when she was at home, she was practicing spelling her name, which she could do very well. However, the writing was not as clear as one would expect from an older child.
The child also showed interesting signs of cognitive development as well. She was very interested in exploring and explaining certain aspects of her environment, both to her classmates and to her younger brother at home. She felt the need to come up with answers for everything, which showed that she clearly was using abstract reasoning to help increase her problem solving abilities. The explanations she came up with were interesting, as she was using information from her limited knowledge bank to explain completely unrelated things. For example, she was explaining to a classmate at her aftercare program at school that the sky was blue because the stars are all different colors, and the ones closest to the earth must be blue to give the sky that reflection. Although untrue, her understanding of the different types of stars and how they have an impact on the environment around them was quite impressive. She was essentially using abstract thinking to come up with problem solving strategies, this was an element she was incredibly proud of, as most of the kids around her believed her -- especially her younger brother.
The fact that she could spell her name was impressive, as she has been practicing for months. Yet, these syntax skills still need clear development, as she had trouble writing her younger brother's name and my name as well. It seems as if she really only know the letters she had been previously exposed to that were linked to her own image and self-concept. Other letters and phonetic combinations were much harder to grasp. Still, she definitely showed impressive language abilities. Not only was her pronunciation of difficult words pretty good, she was also already using complex grammatical structures in her language. She was also a huge talker. She used loads of impressive vocabulary words, although many were not used in the correct context. It seems as though she was repeating words she had heard in adult conversations. Although she may not have known the exact meaning of the words themselves, her repetition of them is a clear link to many developmental philosophies which posit that language is learned through imitation and repetition before acquisition. She seemed proud of the words that none of her peers knew, and made sure to inform them of the definition if one of them asked, even though many of those definitions were wrong or a little off.
From a sociological perspective, many aspects of her development were in tune with the commonly held theories of development. Essentially, children in this age range begin to "understand more about his or her place in the world" through using social reinforcements (CDC 2012). This is what I had observed. There were many instances when she used her own cues of social referencing to answer questions or explain parts of her environment. When discussing the issue of the blue sky to her classmates, it is clear that she was in many ways invoking what she had heard through other social environments, just slightly out of context. Moreover, her self-concept was being derived from an understanding of the social world around her. She knew she was smaller than many of the other girls her age, and was a little insecure about it. She would over exaggerate how tall her mom and dad were as to show that she has more growing to do.
Finally, from an emotional perspective, the child was also showing signs of developing further from her previous childhood stage. Essentially, children of this period "show more independence from parents and family" (CDC 2012). This was seen in the case of her playing both at the park and at her aftercare program. She was clearly not shy, and wanted to stay longer at both locations -- showing a clear independence and desire to explore the world outside of her family home. Moreover, she showed clear signs of pride when she knew things that the other kids didn't, or when she came up with explanations that they seemed to believe.
Eriksson's Theory of Psychosocial Development
These developmental characteristics can be seen through the context of Erik Eriksson's theory of psychosocial development, where the child of this age learns and emulates the adults around them. The child in question is in the beginning stages of Industry vs. Inferiority, which typically occurs between 6-11 years of age. The stage is "the psychological conflict of middle childhood, which is resolved positively when experiences lead children to develop a sense of competence at useful skills and tasks" (Karpowitz 2012 p 1). During this time period, there is a danger of feeling inferior, meaning the child feels inept at the tasks they are trying to conduct, therefore decreasing overall confidence and can result in a state of pessimism. I observed this while watching the child's behaviors primarily in front of her peers. She would show great effort to convince others of her explanations. The pride she felt and exhibited upon convincing others of her arguments is a sign that she is leaning towards expressing industry, rather than inferiority.
The child is also showing signs of a developing self-concept. This is essentially a movement from George Herbert Mead's I-self to me-self, "that resembles the attitudes of significant others" (Karpowitz 2012 p 1). Essentially, the child is no longer isolated from his or her environment, but rather each child uses elements of his or her environment to begin to construct a more complicated notion of the self (Harmon & Jones 2005). According to the research, "Children begin to emphasize their capabilities and talents rather than things that they…