Psychosocial Development of Middle Childhood

Erikson’s theory of industry versus inferiority explains the psychosocial development of middle childhood.

The energy of children during middle childhood development is directed towards creativity and productivity. They strive to accomplish competence at useful skills and tasks to attain social recognition among the adults and children in their environment.

Self-esteem development during middle childhood

Self-esteem is based on how children perceive themselves in the areas that are important to them.

Healthy self-esteem is built on positive self-concept, which gets pronounced during middle childhood years.

From age 6 to10 are the early school years, when children establish their own identity. Individuality and independence is first experienced by children during this phase of development.

Self-esteem of middle childhood children is very high

They have high self-esteem; respect themselves and the family to which their own identity is linked. They begin to mark their own social stand in appearance, behavior and capabilities in comparison to those around them.

Their capabilities and social status influence their self-concept and consequently their self-esteem. At this stage of childhood development children judge themselves according to their ability to produce socially valued outputs.

Building healthy self-esteem is a continuous process. It starts in child's own mind as a part of psychosocial development of middle childhood.

As children advance through school years, they associate their self-esteem in three separate facets; academic, social and body image.

Low self-esteem impairs school performance & social relationships

The danger of inadequate self-esteem development arises in children whose personality development has been hampered by early childhood trauma.

These children are usually poor achievers; they lack their basic self-esteem essential to build overall confident personality. They are likely to suffer from inferiority complex unless intervened early by positive reinforcement by parents and teachers.

Psychosocial development and parent-child relationship

The desire for independence and growing individuality move children into the world that is a little distant from that of their parents. They assert their will, defy authority and resist parental interference. This is often misinterpreted as disrespectful behavior.

Children however recognize the need for the parents' support. They respect parents' knowledge and skills and strive to seek parents’ acceptance. Emotional deprivement leaves them lonely and in pain. Co-regulation prevents social and emotional disharmony in children.

Emotional Deprivement Leaves Children Lonely & In Pain


Co-regulation implies that parent to child communication need to be a bilateral dynamic process rather than simple exchange of information. This form of child parenting is also known as democratic parenting.

Here the words and the tone of conversation are adjusted based on perceptions, facial expressions and body language of the child.

Since children get the liberty to express their views, they do not resist sharing information or avoid participating in a discussion.

Co-regulation helps parents to hold oversight and gives children the desired independence and the responsibility.

Coping with sibling rivalry

Sibling rivalry is a normal phenomena of psychosocial development of childhood. It is the reflection of competitive attitude of children to achieve recognition among the adults and children in their environment: Essential process for healthy self-esteem and personality development.

Siblings are companions, who help and comfort each other through difficult tasks and difficult times. Elder sibling usually attains higher IQ and better school grades as a result of parental expectation of mature behavior. The younger gains more peer popularity attributed to development of better negotiating and compromising capabilities.

Comparison perpetuates sibling rivalry

Comparison of siblings' traits, abilities, and accomplishments by the parents leads to an increase in sibling rivalry and may even perpetuate jealousy between them.

When siblings are close in age and of the same sex, parental comparisons take place more frequently, which results in more quarrelling and antagonism among the siblings.

Building peer group relationships

Psychosocial development of middle childhood focuses on peer relationship. Children at this age conform readily to the peer group norms in order to win social acceptance. They seek acceptance both from elders and peer group by their ability to produce socially valued outputs.

Peer group provides a context in which children practice cooperation, leadership and followership, and develop a sense of loyalty to collective goals.

During middle childhood, friendships are fairly stable. Friends chosen tend to be of the same age, sex, and ethnicity.

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Moral development

  • Psychosocial development in middle childhood creates morality in children.

  • By the age of 6 years children develop conscience.
  • They also begin to understand moral rules of the society.

  • Trust is a major factor in child’s social relationships and its violation is viewed by them as a serious breach.

  • Children in this age group can distinguish right from wrong.

  • They begin to reason out the context and motivation to justify an action.

  • By 10 years of age they begin to understand philosophy of “being fair” and “do unto others as you would want them to you”

  •  For an overview of the stages of moral development click here.

Emotional development

Understanding emotions is a major facet of psychosocial development.

  • During middle childhood, children fear of being physically defective even if they are normal.

    Their participation in organized outdoor games and activities give them the sense of fitness and accomplishment.

  • The conceptual knowledge about self-conscious emotions relies on middle childhood development, which is reflected in school-children's capacity of understanding "self".

  • They develop the capacity to identify pride and guilt. Pride motivates children to take up challenges, while guilt prompts making amends.

  • Emotional Understanding: Psychosocial development leads to children's capability to understand diverse emotions.

    School-age children are able to explain emotion by making reference to the feelings rather than the physical events alone. By 8 years of age, children can experience more than one emotion at a time. This understanding is due to their cognitive development and social experiences.

  • Empathy is thus developed in young children. They also learn to appreciate that emotional reactions need not reflect a person's true feelings.

Self development

Self-regulation: Important facet of psychosocial development

Acquiring effective cognitive and emotional self-regulation is one of the major challenges of middle childhood development.

Cognitive self-regulation

cognitive self-regulation assists children to monitor their progress towards the set goals, checking outcomes, and redirecting unsuccessful efforts.

Emotional self-regulation

It is a component of psyhosocial development, where by 10 years of age, children develop strategies to handle emotionally arousing situations.

Optimal psychosocial development leads to emotionally well-regulated children. These children are usually upbeat in mood, more empathic, pro-social and liked by their peers.

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