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CHAPTER 10 Conclusion: The Status of Basic Research on MicIdle Childhood W. Andrew Collins Middle childhood encompasses a number of distinctive and important transformations in human development. Considerable research now exists to document this conclusion, and the chapters in this volume are attempts to distill from the evidence salient characteristics of development during these years and the major issues facing the future study of middle childhood. The research that the pane! examined in the course of its work is uneven in quality and in the amount of information available from area to area. For the most part, sociological and anthropological studies of middle childhood are few in number. Consequently, additional information is needed on the role of social and cultural structures and influences in middle childhood experiences. The fields of education, medicine, and public health have produced pertinent information, although largely from perspectives that are incidentally concerned with the characteristics of this period of develop- ment. In psychology the amount of information available is relatively large but varies across subareas of the field. Many studies of cognitive development have involved children ages 6-12, but little research addresses the nature of changes in middle childhood in the development of the self and self- regulation. Peer relationships have received a moderate amount of attention, but description of normal socialization practices within the family during middle childhood has been relatively neglected. Considerable evidence has 398
CONCLUSION 399 now been accumulated on characteristic behavior problems of middle child- hood, but many questions of etiology and the long-term outcomes of both physical and psychological development still urgently need attention. In all of the fields from which research findings were drawn, it was nec- essary to reexamine literature traditionally organized under rubrics other than middle childhood. Nevertheless, several distinctive qualities of children ages of 6-12 emerged and are addressed in this chapter. Also noted here are numerous developmental changes that occur during middle childhood as well as individual and group differences that must be recognized as dis- tinctive to the period. Finally, an attempt is made to characterize some general considerations for the future study of children ages 6-12. THE NATURE AND TASKS OF MIDDLE CHILDHOOD Any division of human development into age periods is arbitrary from the perspective of current knowledge about developmental change. Never- theless, some features of middle childhood can be discemed that distinguish it from the early childhood years. At the same time, significant continuities with other age periods can be seen as well as considerable change during middle childhood. Three general themes emerged from the literature on middle childhood. First, around age 6 or 7, children show skills and characteristic modes of thought and behavior that contrast significantly with typical patterns before age 5. Although no evidence was found that primary elements of functioning emerge de nova in this period, new capacities clearly do emerge. Underlying these contrasts with earlier periods appear to be processes of consolidation, extension, and integration operating on social and personal knowledge, skills, emotions, and modes of response and interaction that were present in similar forms earlier. The concomitants of these changes can be seen in areas ranging from the greater complexity of intellectual problem solving to the capacity for beginning and maintaining intimate friendships. Second, middle childhood is a time of marked changes in capacities and typical behavior. These years cannot be considered a time of homogeneous functioning, for they are a time during which major transformations in abilities take place. In general, these developments also appear to reflect processes of gradual consolidation and extension of abilities. The intellectual shifts from early to middle childhood are continued, and by age 12 children are capable of applying more flexible, abstract thinking capabilities to a wider range of problems, including those involving the complexities of social relationships. Greater self-regulation of activities and problem-solving skills . lo.
400 DEVELOPMENT DURING MIDDLE CHILDHOOD also occur, and children acquire more extensive repertoires of skills for tasks and more effective techniques for beginning and maintaining social rela- tionships. Third, although a description of these developmental changes glosses over marked individual differences in the course and outcomes of middle child- hood development, it also underscores the continuity of developmental processes in this, as in other, life periods. It is not surprising, then, that development in middle childhood appears to have considerable significance for behavioral orientations, success, and adjustment in adolescence and adulthood. An array of fairly recent evidence supports this conclusion. The strongest indication so far of childhood predictors of adult status and psy' chopathology comes from this period (see Chapters 6 and 9 of this volume). Early childhood predictors have been much less powerful than measures taken in middle childhood. Behavior disorders appear to become more re- sistant to change in the course of middle childhood (Chapter 9~. Recent research indicates that status as a rejected child also becomes increasingly intransigent in middle childhood; the 5'year stability of rejection in so- ciometric studies (a standard paradigm for assessing which children are pre- ferred socially by other children) is greater if one starts it at grade 5 than at grade 3. School achievement at grade 12 is more reliably predicted by achievement at grade 3 than by achievement at grade I. An issue of special significance, but considerable complexity, is whether middle childhood is a time in which children's personalities, behavioral pattems, and basic competencies become increasingly crystallized into forms that are likely to persist into adolescence and adulthood. It is critically important to understand both the nature and the sources of the consoli- dations that occur in middle childhood and the implications of crystallizing behavioral pattems. At this point, many questions remain to be answered. One difficulty lies in the problem of distinguishing increasing stability of behavior and ability from increasing similarity of the measures that can be used for older children and measures of adult characteristics. Similarity also increases between the tasks and settings that are typical of 6- to 12-year-olds and those that adults encounter. These problems make it difficult to sort out the causes of in- creasing similarity between child and adult indicators during middle child- hood. An adequate account for the Nature of the nature of changing implications of events during middle childhood must include the possibility that the causal direction of influences may change. For example, children's self- concepts of ability affect their academic performance in grade 1, but the pattern is reversed in older children (Entwisle and Hay~uk, 1982~. The possibility of crystallization and a search for its causes are compelling goals for future research. If additional support is found, the significance of de
CONCLUSION 401 velopmental changes in the middle childhood years should become a topic of critical importance. In summary, although the middle childhood years clearly reflect the con- tinuity of developmental processes, there are distinctive differences that indicate the consolidation and integration of abilities and typical behavior that set the period apart. The sections that follow describe the picture of functioning and the tasks faced by children ages 6-12 that can be drawn from the current literature. Changing Qualities of Thought and the Growth of Knowledge Ages 5-7 are universally recognized as a time of significant cognitive changes (Chapters 1 and 8), and considerable research has been devoted to the nature of these changes. At least three developmental transitions can be identified. First, there is a growing ability to deal systematically with abstract rep- resentations of objects and events (Chapter 3~. The thought of children younger than 5-7 characteristically involves limitations on the number of objects that can be thought about at one time, and systematic or abstract reasoning is relatively rare. Between ages 6 and 9, most children gain ca- pacities that enable them to reason effectively about increasingly complex problems and circumstances in both the physical and social worlds. Later in the period, another transformation in cognitive abilities is marked by increased abilities for generalizing across concrete instances and problem solving and reasoning characterized by generating and testing hypotheses. This shift to formal-operational thought, in Piaget's terms, has usually been attributed to adolescence, but in Western cultures it typically appears be- tween ages 10 and 12 (Chapter 3~. In both transitions, older children's thoughts and problem-solving abilities incorporate elements of functioning that were present in earlier periods but that are combined and integrated in new ways in intellectual perfo~ance over the course of the school years. Second, increasing capacities for planfu! organized behavior become ev- ident. These "cognitive executive functions" (Sternberg and Powell, 1983) include adopting a plan or goal for activities and subordinating knowledge and actions in the service of the superordinate plan. The ability to monitor one's own activities and mental processes also increases substantially in middle childhood (Brown et al., 1983~. Thus, children ages 6-12 often manifest more mature, independent organization of school tasks and other tasks than do preschool children. Third, and parallel to the first two dimensions of change, middle childhood is a time of pronounced increase in both the opportunity and the capacity for acquiring information and for using new knowledge in reasoning, think'
402 DEVELOPMENT DURING MIDDLE CHILDHOOD ing, problem solving, and action. School is the main formal vehicle for the transmission of knowledge both in academic content and in cultural norms and values (Chapter 71. The general parameters of reaming tasks that are effective for school-age children have been studied extensively (Minuchin and Shapiro, 1983; Stemberg and Powell, 1983~. In addition, knowledge in specific topic areas is increasingly being studied in order to specify its role in reaming (e.g., Brown et al., 1983; Chi, 1978; Resnick, 1983; Siegler, 1983~. We are now gaining valuable information about the ways in which having or acquiring knowledge facilitates the in tegration and more efficient use of cognitive skills. A major gap in our knowledge, however, continues to be adequate understanding of the social and motivational determinants of effective reaming. It is known that these vary considerably among children, according to the degree of economic and educational advantage, but a better understanding is needed of the ways in which the diversity of elementary school pupils can be guaranteed the full benefits of schooling (Chapters 3 and 7~. Informal reaming about social systems and relationships and knowledge of social conventions also increases dramatically in middle childhood (Chap' ters 4, 6, and 81. For example, children ages 6-12 have appreciably greater and more sophisticated knowledge about illness and health than do younger children. Knowledge of behavioral norms and conventions for various set- tings, recognition of the meaning of dysfunction in others, and an under' standing of conception and death are all markedly greater in the middle childhood period than before. Television is a major source of information about social A, Ices, and behaviors at all ages te.g., Collins and Korac, 1982; Comstock et al., 1980; Maccoby and Roberts, 1983), and children ages 6- ~ 2, particularly preteen youngsters, spend more time viewing iV than do either younger children or adolescents. Perhaps more significant in middle childhood are increased opportunities to acquire social scripts and concepts from increased exposure to more varied social models and settings. To date, cognitive research on middle childhood has given us extensive insights into the nature of fundamental changes in cognitive skills and the contributions of knowledge to cognitive performance. Yet many unanswered questions remain regarding cognitive growth and knowledge acquisition in connection with salient aspects of the lives of 6- to 12-year-olds and the implications for later behavior and adjustment. For example, what role does knowledge acquisition in or out of school, formal or informal play in the growth of specific competence and performance skills during middle childhood? What characteristics of typical middle childhood environments and experiences are major influences in the growth of knowledge and its effective use? In the long term, what are the implications of learning and ~. _._ ___:_ 1 ~ 1 1 ~. .. .
CONCLUSION 403 development of cognitive skills in this period for adult outcomes such as vocational choice and success? These issues deserve high priority research. Different Functions of the Self in future Middle childhood is a time of signal achievements with regard to concepts of self. Major advances occur in the stability and comprehensiveness of self' knowledge, in refining one's understanding of the social world, and in de' veloping standards and expectations for one's own behavior (Chapter 4~. Whereas preschool-age children typically couch self-knowledge in terms of concrete, objective attributes and actions, a transition occurs in middle childhood toward descriptions of self that refer to abstract dispositional qualities distinguishing oneself from other persons. Increasing differentiation of self from others may be fundamental to the consolidation of behavioral orientations during middle childhood. The years from 6 to 12 are typically a time of widening social contacts and experiences, with attendant pressures and opportunities for self-differentiation and self- evaluation. Individuation and self-managed responsibilities appear to be important in most cultures (Chapter S). In Western societies, however, children face considerable cultural pressures toward individualism, whereas the development of cooperation is given relative emphasis in many other societies (Chapter 8~. Children between 6 and 12 in the United States must come to conceive of themselves as distinct from the social system at the same time that they are being socialized to it. Several processes of developmental change as well as environmental pres- sures contribute to the salience of self-definition during middle childhood. The growth of cognitive concepts and knowledge of cultural norms and expectations for performance are major influences. In addition, the wider variety of social contexts and the changing relationships encountered by school-age children stimulate comparisons between self and others and pro- vide sources of evaluative feedback about skills and abilities. For example, many Westem parents grant more autonomy to the child as a more respon- sible self becomes apparent, and in turn the child's self-concept is altered as a result of increasingly autonomous control over activities. Cross~cultural evidence indicates that training for coregulation, rather than autonomous self-regulation, is a central socialization goal in this period. The years 6-12 are a time of social sensitivity in the formation of some aspects of self~concept, such as academic self-concept (Chapters 4 and 7~. For example, in the absence of special instructional interventions, school achievement at grade 12 correlates highly with achievement measures taken
404 DEVELOPMENT DURING MIDDLE CHILDHOOD after grade 3 but not before (Chapter 7~. Correlations between self-perceived competence and achievement test scores increase from grade 3 to grade 6, and there is also greater agreement between teacher ratings of competence and self-perceived competence over this period. Self-perceptions may simply become more realistic during these years, but the causal influence may operate in the other direction as well. Labeling or categorization undoubtedly plays a role, regardless of whether labels are generated by the self or by others. The contributions of these variables to the crystallization of self- concept have not yet been sorted, but they may offer significant clues about the nature of emerging and more stabilized patterns of functioning between the ages of 6 and 12. Many processes of self-concept formation are still only partially under- stood. More information is needed on the nature of self-knowledge con- ceming motives and goals, skills and abilities, emotions, social roles, and the interplay among various domains in which self-concepts are formed (academic, physical, social). These aspects of the self underlie children's abilities to manage their own activities and tasks effectively. They also appear critical to effective social interactions and relationships, including those within the family and the peer culture and to the allocation of effort and choice of activities. The role of self-esteem, although the most frequently studied dimension of self-concept, is still unclear. In particular, the origins of self-esteem that are most significant for 6- to 12-year-olds and their implications for development of individual children need further careful research. The lack of objective criteria against which to calibrate self-esteem is a major impediment to research on this topic. Changes in Self-Management ~ ~ ~ ~· ~ ~O Linked to changing concepts of self in middle childhood are greater ca- oacities for self-control and self-regulation. Between ages 6 and 12, impul- sivity decreases, capacities tor plantulness and other control processes emerge, and skills necessary for regulating one's own behavior and interactions are acquired. Knowledge of the self, emotions, and self-regulatory processes are integral to these self-regulatory capacities, although the processes that link them are not yet understood. Increasing self regulation potentially affects many aspects of behavior in ~r ~t t middle childhood. Peer group activities are less extensively supervised by adults than they were in early childhood, and more autonomy and inde- pendence are expected in tasks at school and at home. Children ages 6-12 are increasingly responsible for interacting with health care personnel and for mastering and acting on information and instructions about medication, specific health practices, and evolving life-style issues with implications for
CONCLUSION 405 physical and mental well-being. The effect of increasing self-management capabilities may be felt most keenly in the family. Parents' management and control functions are altered when children approach middle childhood, partly in response to the greater self-management skills they evidence (Chap- ter S). Although parents do not relinquish control abruptly any more than children abruptly become autonomous, children's self-management skills probably do contribute to a gradual transition from parental regulation of children's behavior to coregulation between child and parent to self-regu- lation by the child. This transition in turn appears to lay the groundwork for greater autonomy in adolescence and young adulthood. Several questions deserve attention in the further study of the growth of self-management skills in middle childhood. Self-management and the emer- gence of coregulation between adults and children may be hastened by developmental changes in cognitive functioning and self-concept, although more information is needed to describe and account for them. For example, are the various components of self-management equally important at all ages? Perhaps as aclolescence approaches, some aspects of self-management become more automated, and other tasks, such as reorganizing one's habits to make self-regulation more appropriate to the tasks of adolescence, become dominant. A developmental approach to self-regulation could be fruitfully investigated in the 6- to 12-year-old population. Children's self-knowledge of subjective states, such as motives, goals, emotions, and strategies relevant to self-regulation, may be one avenue to better understanding of this aspect of development. In Chapter 4 of this volume, Markus and Nurius propose that further research should focus on the social contexts and relationships from which self-concept and capacities for self-regulation grow. For example, studies are needed of changes in parental monitoring with age and the processes by which control is gradually shifted to the child. Research on the contexts that produce shifts in patterns of social regulation also need study. For example, the school's role in management and control of children ages 6- 12 appears to have increased in the past two decades, relative to parents' influence. The nature of this change, its impact, and the extent to which it occurs evenly across social strata need to be determined. A source of clues about relevant dimensions of variation in other social contexts may be the differences that have been documented between Western and non-Western cultures (Chapter 8~. Changes in Social Contexts and Relationships The proportion of time spent at home and with parents is altered in middle childhood, so that 6- to 12-year-olds spend larger amounts of time
406 DEVELOPMENT DURING MIDDLE CHILDHOOD in settings with other children alone than they did in early childhood. Time with peers is spent in different kinds of social exchanges than typically occur with adults. Children's own differentiations of the two types of relationships are made mainly in terms of the greater extent to which equal-to-equal exchanges are characteristic with peers (Chapter 6~. The impact of widening social contexts is often discussed in the literature, but little information is available on several basic questions. For example, what functions are shifted to the peer group as the proportion of time with peers increases between 6 and 127 What are the implications for one system when disruption occurs in the other' Family and peer relationships themselves undergo transformation in mi3- dle childhood. Compared with early childhood, family relationships are characterized by decreased face~to-face interaction and control. Maccoby, in Chapter 5 of this volume, refers to the necessity for more distal processes of control, in which parental monitoring of children's own management of their activities plays a large role. Discipline becomes less physical and less restraint oriented and more directed toward developing intemal controls. Children's own concepts of the parent-child relationship move toward no- tions of mutual caring and responsibility, rather than focusing so extensively on the child's dependency and parents' gratification of the child's needs (Selman, 1980~. Children select friends and associates and accord group status to others on the basis of personal qualities at younger ages, but between 6 and 12 their notions about the qualities that are essential to successful peer rela- tionships and the prerequisites for friendship become more sophisticated. Qualities of individual peer relationships also change. Although the capacity for seeking and forming relationships with others exists in very early child- hood, the capacity for maintaining and extending intimate relationships over time is not apparent until late middle childhood. By ages 10-12, children become notably more skilled in using goal-directed planfu! strategies to begin, maintain, and cooperate within peer relationships. To some degree these patterns undoubtedly reflect the shift in late middle childhood to forr~al-operational thought, although the growth of knowledge about social conventions, interactions, and specific strategies must also play a role. These dimensions of peer relationships are known to affect interactions with peers in adolescence. More information is needed, however, on the socializing consequences of close peer relationships during middle childhood and the ways in which the nature and impact of these relationships change as the child develops. In particular, emotional components of peer experi- ences and peer influences need study. What, for example, is the implication of anxiety in peer relationships for self-concept, self-esteem, harmonious interactions with family, and success in school' The predictive status of poor
CONCLUSION 407 peer relations for maladjustment in later life makes the study of peer rela- tionships in middle childhood especially urgent and promising. Characteristic Antecedents of Later Functioning Much is now known about a variety of events in middle childhood that have potential long-term implications for individual functioning. The most powerful evidence comes from prospective longitudinal studies in which deviant peer relations in middle childhood have been found to predict poor mental health and psychosocial difficulties in adolescence and young adult- hood (Chapter 6~. Attempts to predict--middle childhood outcomes from experiences in early childhood have been less successful (e.g., Richman et al., 1982~. Studies of adolescent psychopathology have often revealed roots in middle childhood disorders (Chapter 91. Normative stresses and mundane experiences alike, when they occur in middle childhood, have been shown to have long-term effects. Elder's ( 1979) analysis of the Oakland and Berkeley Growth Studies indicated that family economic deprivation in childhood affects adult physical health, mental health, and patterning of life decisions such as marriage, and career performance. Correlations are sizable between school achievement and academic self-concept in middle childhood and these same variables measured at grade 12 (Chapter 7~. Most research linking middle childhood events to adult outcomes has focused on psychopathology. Yet a number of interesting questions concern how middle childhood experiences may contribute to a wider range of out- comes. For example, what is the developmental impact of middle childhood experiences on adult health, educational and career achievement, work roles, and productivity' Methodologies recently applied to the study of psy- chopathology might well be extended to the study of links between middle childhood status and experiences and a variety of outcomes in later periods. Among these are normative-epidemiological techniques (e.g., Rutter, 1982) and multivariate-descriptive taxonomic paradigms (Chapter 9), which are effective in identifying the constellation of characteristics that accurately describe behaviors of interest at different ages. These approaches may lead to additional research in which the operation of risk factors and the im- munizing and protective conditions that counteract them can also be fruit- fully investigated. One still troublesome vacuum in our knowledge of middle childhood conditions that have long-term implications concerns school reaming prob- lems. The links between chronic reaming difficulties and later dysfunction are strongly established, but progress in finding workable approaches to the assessment and remediation of reaming difficulties has been slow. Several promising approaches have been devised in recent years (Chapters 2 and
408 DEVELOPMENT DURING MIDDLE CHILDHOOD 9), including the application of normative-epidemiological research methods (Chapter 9; Rutter et al., 1979~. Among other uses, these methods have been applied to the creation of standardized teachers' assessments of pupil behavior. Once such a data base is available, research can be undertaken on differentiated patterns of learning difficulties. In some cases these may be linked to psychopathological conditions that are largely environmentally caused. In others, investigations of neurophysiological conditions may be needed. At present, however, neither biological science nor understanding of the behavioral and other psychological processes involved in reaming are ad- vanced enough to permit definitive conclusions about biological bases for differences in reaming. In Chapter 2 of this volume, Shonkoff argues that the applicability of research on biological correlates of cognitive functioning to classrooms and intervention programs requires cooperative interdiscipli- nary efforts between clinical medicine, education, and basic research. As in the case of psychopathology, it is less likely that the answer lies in devising nosological categories for the diagnosis and treatment of specific clinical entities than in multivariate approaches incorporating notions of risk and protective factors. Normative development has dominated the research on middle childhood to date in some areas, such as the study of cognitive abilities. In others, like social and personality development, more attention has been given to in- dividual differences and normative changes have been relatively neglected. Both dimensions of variation must become integral to the study of middle childhood development in the future. Individual children negotiate devel- opmental sequences at different rates and along somewhat different trajec- tories. These altemative paths partly reflect the operation of social structures and other environmental constraints, which must be better specified in connection with developmental studies (see section below on environmental factors). Comparisons of cultures with regard to environmental features that inoculate against, or mark the appearance of, troublesome behaviors in middle childhood would be useful (Chapter 8~. Several dimensions of individual differences in children ages 6-12 deserve special attention in future research. Increased expectations for self-regulation make issues of emotional development and expressiveness, coping capacities, and the various components of self-management skills especially important topics for study. Similarly, individual differences in the development of behaviors relevant to both physical health and satisfactory adjustment to peer and school social systems need special investigation. An appropriate starting point for these investigations is the epidemiological evidence tying adult behaviors and status to specific antecedents in childhood.
CONCLUSION 409 Summary Children in diverse societies enter a wider social world at about age 6 and begin to determine their own experiences, including their contacts with particular others, to a greater degree than previously. Primary questions still to be answered by research concern the interacting influences of individual developmental change and the altered nature and demands of the contexts of middle childhood, including the varied demands, expectations, and op- tions available to children ages 6-12. The long-term implications of middle childhood development, although difficult to assess, may be especially sig- nificant, compared with correlates of early childhood functioning. Partic- ularly important gaps exist in three areas. I. More research is needed on the effects of the rapid acquisition of knowledge on cognitive growth, skill development, and performance, es- pecially the tasks characteristically required of children ages 6-12. The implications of knowledge acquisition and skill and of concept development in this period for smooth transitions into adolescent and adult roles partic- ularly need study. 2. Different trajectories of individual development in the years 6-12 need research attention. Particular study should be `devoted to altered con- cepts of self and the interplay among various contexts (academic, physical, and social) in which self-concepts are formed. The implications of self' concept changes for increasingly autonomous, self-regulated behavior pat- tems are another topic of considerable importance, as are changes with age in what is required for effective coregulation of behavior between the child and relevant others, especially parents. 3. Middle childhood behavior and performance have repeatedly been found to predict adolescent and adult status, including social and personal dysfunction, more reliably than do early childhood indicators, and this predictiveness increases over the years from 6 to 12. The processes and phenomena of middle childhood that account for enhanced prediction is a topic of considerable importance for additional research. CROSS CUTTING ISSUES IN MIDDLE CHILDHOOD DEVELOPMENT The panel's search for characteristic patterns of children's functioning that distinguish middle childhood from other periods of development began with a review of standard topic areas in developmental study. In the review, however, a set of issues emerged repeatedly across topics. So general are
410 DEVELOPMENT DURING MIDDLE CHILDHOOD they that the pane! believes they should be standard considerations in future research on middle childhood. These issues are not unique to the study of children ages 6-12, but their ramifications for new knowledge are funda- mental to a number of high-priority problems for future study. In addition to methodological issues, which are discussed first, three con- ceptual issues are fundamental to future research. One concerns the impor- tance and difficulties of specifying environmental constraints and scaffolds for development as an integral part of research on middle childhood. The second pertains to the nature, functions, and interrelationships of social systems in the lives of 6- to 12-year olds. The third addresses the interre- latedness of aspects of development that may be compromised by arbitrary segmentations in the fields of developmental study. The Problems of Studying Children Ages 6-12 Before discussing conceptual issues, it should be acknowledged that re- search on middle childhood presents special methodological problems com- pared with earlier periods of development. Unobtrusive access to information is much more difficult, as the reactivity of participants to being observed increases. Furthermore, settings and problems for children in middle child- hood are more complex than those for infants and preschoolers. Many of these methodological difficulties may well be attributable to the relatively small amount of time and energy that developmental scholars have devoted to solving the technical problems of research on this age group. The problems of developing the techniques needed to work with infants and preschool children were seen as formidable in the 1950s, but broad investments of personnel and resources have produced remarkable advances in knowledge about these age periods. Similar investments in the problems of research on middle childhood might well yield quantum increases in our tools for studies of 6- to 12-year-olds. The tools and techniques needed for research in specific problem areas are detailed in the preceding chapters. Several fundamental problems that face developmental researchers in any given period of childhood or adolescence present considerable difficulties in addressing key questions about middle childhood. One is the problem of measuring functionally similar behaviors at different ages. Differences in the knowledge base and performance skills from one age to another make it difficult to identify reliable and valid tasks that tap the same competencies or characteristics across ages. Recent attempts to address this problem in the areas of social and personality development include longitudinal research by Block and Block (1980) and SrouEe (1971). In this work functionally similar behaviors were identified by analyzing social contexts and issues faced by children of different ages to determine what tasks and abilities were
CONCLUSION 411 required for optimal functioning. Thus, social competence was actually mea' sured differently at each age studied; acceptable correlations were found among the measures from one age to another for measures of putatively similar behaviors but not for measures of behaviors that were assumed to be functionally different. Identifying functionally similar measures obviously requires careful psy- chometric evaluation of the properties of tasks as well as their conceptual appropriateness to the competencies under study. A specific difficulty is the usual increase in literacy skills over this age range. Paper and pencil instru' meets suitable for children ages 10-12 cannot be used with children 6-8. The youngest children in this age range are the most difficult to include in large-scale studies, yet changes in these earlier years may overshadow later ones. The potential value of identifying early indicators of later functioning must be given increased attention in research on middle childhood. The importance of this period of development cannot be fully understood without better specification of the ways in which consolidation of personality and skills between ages 6 and 12 is carried forward into other periods of life. Although longitudinal research provides important information on the cle- velopment of individuals, longitudinal methods are not strictly necessary for analysis of developmental sequences per se. Scalogram analysis of perfor' mance should be considered essential for concluding that a sequential pattern has been identified in cross-sectional studies (Chapter 3~. More careful attention to psychometric issues in the assessment of developmental patterns is a major requirement for better information about the nature and course of developmental change in the years 6-12. ' We now turn to three conceptual issues that must be given attention in future research on middle childhood. The Nature and the Role of the Environment The complex issue of environmental influences and constraints on de- velopment in middle childhood has repeatedly emerged in the panel's de- liberations. Our review has convinced us that a view of middle childhood development as a conjoint function of organismic change and sociocultural demands, constraints, and options available to children in this period is both feasible and essential to the advance of knowledge. However, the nature and impact of environments are rarely specified in research on children ages 6-12. A fully adequate analysis of relevant environmental supports and con' straints in development is relatively rare in the study of children of any age. Even anthropologists have only occasionally produced ethnographies focused
412 DEVELOPMENT DURING MIDDLE CHILDHOOD on the lives of children in various cultures, and developmentalists have badly neglected ecocultural pressures in their analyses of individual ontogeny and socialization processes (Levine 1980; Ogbu 1981; Whiting and Whiting, 1975~. To date, most of our knowledge of development in children ages 6- 12 has been drawn from the capabilities and skills of children observed in a restricted range of situations, such as laboratory experimental tasks and, occasionally, self-reports of activities or observations of discrete units of behavior in less constraining settings. Neither these settings nor more com- mon environments have been as carefully analyzed as the behavior of children within them, however. A major difficulty is how to specify the characteristics of relevant envi- ronments in studies of middle childhood. The most common view of en- vironmental influences on development is the general notion of a local "reaming environment" for socialization and intellectual stimulation. In research, environmental features are varied one at a time, as in studies of basic reaming processes, or are treated in an undifferentiated global fashion, as when social class is used as a summary indicator for a constellation of social, cultural, and economic variables. A richer conceptual framework is needed to capture the nature of extemal forces on the developing child, not only the immediate, ambient sources of stimulation that impinge on children but also the culturally normative re- sponses and the survival pressures that form the context for and give meaning to stimulation. The concept of the ecocultural niche, which was adopted by anthropologists to help account for dramatic cultural variations in non- Westem societies, encompasses this broader view (Chapter 8~. The term pertains to the cumulative historical, social, and economic structures and experiences that give significance to mundane events as well as to pivotal transitions in a child's life. Such factors as urban versus rural residence, family and domestic group status, parental and nonparental child care ar- rangements, tasks typically assigned to children, and the role of women in the society have all been demonstrated to affect important dimensions of childhood socialization in Westem and non-Westem cultures (Chapter 8~. Environments of U.S. Children Among the significant aspects of niche variation facing children in the United States are those traditionally captured but not well specified by ethnic, subcultural, and socioeconomic variables. Available demographic data (see Chapter i) indicate that children ages 6-12 from different ethnic backgrounds encounter environments that differ markedly in terms of family
CONCLUSION 413 constellation, economic advantage, and characteristics of home and com- munity, among other features. Yet the pane} repeatedly noted the relative rarity of studies of middle childhood development to which ethnic and socioeconomic variations were integral. Evidence of group differences exists, of course. Studies in education reveal dramatic differences in the adaptation to school of children from different ethnic and subcultural and social-cIass groups (Chapter 7~. In the relatively small number of studies on children's lives outside school, children from different sociocultural backgrounds vary in activity patterns ranging from exposure to television to characteristic leisure-time social involvements. Children also experience different amounts of contact with adults according to sociocultural background, and family settings and parental behavior vary widely as a function of social class and ethnic groups (Chapters 1 and 5~. For example, levels of interaction between parents and their school-age children have been reported to be lower in black than in white families (Chapter 5), a comparison that confounds ethnicity and social class. Although some characteristics of the variables themselves are clearly doc- umented and some correlations with socialization outcomes and children's adaptations to common cultural expectations have been examined, little is known about the significance of ecocultural variations for either short- or long-term outcomes. Models and approaches are needed that can be readily applied to understanding the complex interplay between the developing chilc! and the ecological contexts of development. While the pane! does not urge extensive new research on social class and ethnic differences per se, we do believe that much valuable information can come from studies in which discrete dimensions of children's environments are more carefully and sys- tematically examined in terms of their linkages to characteristic experiences and their impacts on individual children. By this we mean giving attention to the tasks created by these environmental variations for the child and the differences in amount and frequency of contacts with adults, responsibilities expected of the child, the availability of resources, and prevailing norms and structures for the control and management of behavior. These aspects of environments are only partially tapped by traditional measures of social class and ethnicity (Chapter 8~. Expectations Regarding Children as an Environmental Indicator One potentially fruitti~! avenue is research on subjectively held expecta- tions and cultural beliefs about the behavior of children ages 6-12. A focus on expectations of both adults and children may be our most direct avenue to understanding environmental characteristics and pressures. Recent re
414 DEVELOPMENT DURING MIDDLE CHILDHOOD search in Australia by Goodnow et al. (in press) documents subcultural variations in adults' expectations of younger children. American research (Bugental et al., 1980; Holleran et al., in press) demonstrates the role of adults' expectations in perceptions of and reactions to specific behaviors in children. A recent example highlights the potential informativeness of studies that include assessments of adult expectations. Entwiste and Hay~uk (1982) ex- amined parents' expectations for their children's school performance lon- gitudinally in a multiwave design over a 3-year period from grade ~ to 3. These measurement points encompassed a period from before children's academic skills are ordinarily evaluated to a point at which a number of report cards have been sent home. For both middle- and working-cIass children, parents' expectations were strong influences on children's first marks. After grade 1, the influence of working-cIass parents appearec! to be considerably less than that of their middle-class counterparts. Absence rates were correlated with working-cIass, but not middle-cIass, parents' expecta- tions (Entwisle and Hay~uk, 19781. These examples of marked changes in the nature and direction of influence of parental expectations during middle childhood provide models that can be fruitfully extended to other questions. Studies of the expectations normally held by adults in the United States for the behavior and competences of children at different ages between 6 and 12, including subcultural variations, and how these expectations are typically com- municated to children and perceived by them may reveal a great deal about the ecocultural niche constraints encountered by children in this age period. The Child's View of En vironmen is Research is also needed on children's views of common experiences. The past two decades have seen a proliferation of studies on the development of concepts of universal life events, such as conception, birth, and death (Shantz, 1983~. Additional studies are needed on children's concepts of common features of their mundane environments that may be influential in sociali- zation. For example, what are children's concepts of the legitimacy of au- thority, tasks, responsibility for mundane activities, work, common social practices, achievement, age grading, abnormality, and the like? Recent research on children's understanding of rules and conventions is promising in this regard (see Chapter 6), but further research is needed. Important unanswered questions concern the impact of personal experiences on con- cepts (e.g., the effect of chronic illness on concepts of disease) and how concepts might be changed to facilitate adjustment. Most studies have fo- cused on questions of children's cognitive competence rather than on the functional significance of variations in pragmatic concepts, and knowledge
CONCLUSION 415 has largely been drawn from studies of middIe-cIass children. Weisner (Chap' ter 8) notes that information on cross-cultural variations is likely to be a source of valuable clues to variables of special importance in the study of school-age children's understanding of their circumstances and experiences. Environmental Supports for Developmental Change variation in stable, enduring cultural expectations and adaptations should not be confused with the task and contextual variations in children's behavior that are commonly observed in middle childhood and that pervade the literature of other age periods as well. Task and contextual effects commonly arise in assessments of children's competencies or abilities. In Chapter 3, Fischer and Bullock subsume these findings under the category of support- iveness of the environment. They note that characteristics of some tasks and contexts do not permit successful performance, even when other tasks of similar levels of formal difficulty can be solved. In research on development the problem of task variation is sometimes no more than a problem of sampling tasks adequately to assess the limitations of the child's competence. But as Fischer and Bullock note, task characteristics can also be analyzed for their implications about the role of environmental supports in the ac- quisition of skill and the fostering of new levels of competence, as when an adult provides aid that enables a child to complete a task successfully. In such cases environmental supports may facilitate task completion at a higher level on subsequent attempts. The relationship between transient task factors such as these and more stable, enduring features of the ecocultural niche need further investigation. . ~ Nature, Functions, and Interrelationships of Social Systems A focus on the role of the environment in development entails attention to the social relationships and settings that impinge upon children. Both the nature and the function of social systems and the ways in which they are linked to one another are potentially significant factors in research on children ages 6-12. Social Contexts of Middle Childhood The study of middle childhood has long included examination of family, peer, and school influences, but societal changes and other factors continue to make salient new issues about which information is needed. For example, the dynamics and influences of family systems have increasingly been ret ceiving more attention from researchers, but much of the information to
416 DEVELOPMENT DURING MIDDLE CHILDHOOD date concerns families of preschool children. Specific problems of dealing with 6- to 12-year-olds in different family structures would benefit from further research. In two-parent families the role of fathers in children's responses to the challenges of middle childhood is linked to a number of interesting questions of self-concept and its effects, the intensification of cross-sex interactions, and the reaming of work roles and life-style practices, but pertinent information is scarce (Chapter 5~. Similarly, the school social system in the late 1950s was alleged to have extensive implications for school achievement and, by implication, for cog- nitive development and self-concept formation in junior high and high school (e.g., Coleman, 1961~. Still, we need to know what features of this system are essential to effects on these potentially significant dimensions of middle childhood experience and how the features operate to produce these effects. Research by Rutter et al. ( 1979) on high schools provides a valuable mode! for research on school systems involving 6- to 12-year-olds. Outside school the peer system plays a central role in the socialization and emotional lives of 6- to 12-year-olds. Questions concerning the nature of these ex- periences and their impact on the child are central to an understanding of middle childhood development, but at present information is sparse and based on indirect assessment of peer influences. An example of recent research on a developmental change experienced by many children ages 6-12 indicates the importance of social-system in- fluences. Large numbers of children experience the physical changes of pubescence well before their thirteenth birthdays, and much research has now been devoted to the general effects of timing of puberty on trajectories of psychosocial development (Chapter 2~. The combination of factors faced by a preteen child who experiences early physical maturation is now being more carefully examined as well. Recent research on the effects of the shift from elementary to junior high school at seventh grade demonstrates that pubertal change, combined with social and achievement pressures from school transitions, heightens the adjustment problems of individual children (Sim- mons et al., 1979~. Research on early dating indicates the complex of social norms and age-graded conventions that contribute to this social pattern for an individual child. These studies compellingly document the interaction between physical, social-structural, and individual factors in development in the latter part of the 6-12 period for many children. Interrelationships of Social Systems The interrelationships of social systems and settings also determine pres- sures on children and their responses to them. We now have fragmentary
CONCLUSION 417 evidence that consistency between salient social contexts facilitates optimal functioning of children. Most often in such studies the family is one of the two settings involved. Parents' perceived encouragement and facilitation of participation in out-of~schoo} organized activities combined as the single most influential determinant of children's participation (Medrich et al., 1982~. Especially in middle childhood, many children depend heavily on parents for transportation, volunteer leadership, and often for knowledge of opportunities. Questions on the relationship of out-of-school activities to the school system are frequently acknowledged, but more information is needed to determine the importance of consistency between these aspects of children's lives. Despite considerable evidence that disjunctions between family and other settings are inimical to optimal development, the possibility remains that consistency is not an important variable for all children and all situations. In research on school environments, for example, the authority structure of school settings was especially important for children from families that did not emphasize participation in decision making. For other children, variation in classroom organization and teacher's authority style made little difference (Chapter 7~. It is possible, as cognitive-developmental theories imply, that moderate inconsistency is sometimes developmentally beneficial. The nature and optimal amount of inconsistency for 6- to 12-year-olds as well as the areas of experience in which consistency and inconsistency are likely to have differential effects are topics about which information is needed. For example, how do children perceive discrepancies in family conventions and expectations and those in other settings? Recent work on the understanding of rules, conventions, and discrepancies between home and school rules (e.g., Much and Shweder, 1978; Nucci and Nucci, 1982) is a useful begin- ning that should be extended into understanding of other aspects of social systems and structures. Studies of family and peer influences, especially with regard to shifts in relative influence between early childhood and adolescence, indicate a va- riety of possible relationships among social systems. The possibility of re- ciprocal influences has been raised by Youniss's (1980) recent suggestion that children may bring to their families from their peer groups knowledge, expectations, and behavioral tactics that enable their families to adjust to demands of interaction with a rapidly maturing child. Hartup ~ 1979) recently suggested that the family system serves a gating function for smooth, suc- cessfut peer relationships. This function probably becomes increasingly im- portant in middle childhood. In the future a stronger focus is needed on the varied ways in which family, peers, and other social systems may influence development between the ages of 6 and 12.
. 418 DEVELOPMENT DURING MIDDLE CHILDHOOD lnterrelatedness of Developmental Issues Much of our knowledge about clevelopment reflects the long-standing division of the research enterprise into domains of Functioning; hence, this report is organized into chapters on cognition, the self, and specific aspects of social experiences (family, peers, schools). Early in its deliberations, however, the pane! concluded that an adequate understanding of middle childhood development requires attention to possible interrelationships across these arbitrary boundaries. A compelling example is the implications of cognitive achievements for an emerging sense of self and self-regulatory capacities. As is apparent in Chapters 3 and 4, cognitive and emotional functioning are as integral to one another as they are to self and social relationships. Our reviews of the literature on health, psychopathology, and school affirm the importance of these interrelationships. Nevertheless, re- search that incorporates these facets of human functioning simultaneously is rare in general and almost nonexistent in the study of middle childhood. For example, simple questions such as the possible influence of boys' height or athletic prowess on self-esteem still need study, but such relationships must be examined in light of other developmental dimensions (e.g., cog- nitive capabilities) and the social matrix in which the child is embedded. This deficiency is especially problematic for analyzing children's capacities for coping with circumstances that ordinarily put them at risk for psycho- pathology and other dysfunctional outcomes. Although we now have ex- tensive knowledge of psychological problems of middle childhood and good tools for learning more about such difficulties, more attention needs to be given 'to the functioning of children who manage to avoid dysfunctional outcomes. Such work will include, at a minimum, attention to cognitive, social, and emotional components of coping (Garmezy, 1982~. Aspects of middle childhood development about which information is especially needed are emotional understanding and expression and its in- terrelationships with other domains of functioning. At present, most infor- mation about children ages 6-12 in this area pertains to their developing knowledge of emotions and rules for emotional expression, but little is known about the functions of emotional expressions and implications for social relationships, coping, and self-concept. One area in which more information is needed concerns the implications of the emotional character of children's relationships with their teachers to socialization within the school system. Much previous research indicates the importance of warmth and nurturance to teacher-learner relationships of several different kinds, but the specific nature of emotional linkages between salient other persons in middle child- hood is not well understood. The effects of anxiety, both positive and
CONCLUSION 419 negative, and a better, more differentiated understanding of the implications of self-esteem for family, peer, and school experiences are also important topics for investigation. The topic of emotion is now experiencing a re- surgence of interest in the social and behavioral sciences, and this renewed attention should be beneficial to the study of emotional functioning in middle childhood development. CONCLUSION The study of children ages 6-12 has yielded considerable information about the processes of development. A number of significant questions re- main, but the basic research now available is a promising foundation from which new evidence can be generated. New methods will be required in some areas, particularly in those of social relationships and competence, but a number of the required methods for generating new knowledge about this period are now in place. The most urgent need at present is simply a conviction that the phenom- ena of middle childhood warrant a commitment of scholarly energies and resources. The pane! believes that they do. The pane! also believes that the study of any given age period is likely to be most productive when it concerns the distinctive tasks and qualities of the period within the general flow of developmental changes. This approach is well established in the literature on children ages 6-12, and the pane! urges its continuation. The complex- ities of the task notwithstanding, the prospects and benefits of understanding the nature and processes of development in the school years warrant serious attention in the decades ahead. ' REFERENCES Block, J.H., and Block, J. 1980 The role of ego-control and ego resiliency in the organization of behavior. Pp. 39-101 in W.A. Collins, ea., Development of Cognition, Affect, and Social Relations: Minnesota Symposia on Child Psychology. Vol. 13. Hillsdale, N.~.: Lawrence Erlbaum. Brown, A., Bransford, J., Ferrara, R., and Campione, J. 1983 Learning, remembering, and understanding. in ]. Flavell and E. Markman, eds., HaT~d- book of Child Psychology. Vol. 3 (P. Mussen, General Ed.). New York: John Wiley & Sons. Bugental, D., Caporael, L., and Shennum, W. 1980 Experimentally produced child uncontrollability: Effects on the potency of adult com munication patterns. Child Development 51:520-528. Chi, M. 1978 Knowledge of structure and memory development. Pp. 73-96 in R. Siegler, ea., Children's Thinking: What Develops? Hillsdale, N.].: Lawrence Erlbaum.
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