A Clinical Approach to Children 6-10 Years of Age

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Clinical Studies Teaching Seminar
Dr. Susan Turben
John Carroll University

Key Concepts in Child Development

A Clinical Approach to Children 6-10 Years of Age

Abilities and Skills:

Six to ten year olds impress you with their social and cognitive behavior and development because qualitative as well as quantitative changes are observable (Lewis.)  The skills and abilities acquired during this age period reflect sophistication and a level of competence that appears well integrated. That is, the whole child emerges as one who can do complicated maneuvers such as riding a bike (no hands), or speak some Spanish (more fluently than adults), or solve Rubik’s cube puzzles, or draw expertly from visual memory.

Physical Changes:

This is a period of consolidation of earlier functioning, in which the maturational and structural aspects of development is more clearly observable. There is the impression that children this age can do their work and play tasks effortlessly, automatically, without conscious or determined motivation. Logic and delay in gratification, as well as recognition of the inevitability of such life events as divorce, death, or other forms of loss are seen in the development and behavior of elementary age children.

The child now does not divert as much energy as previously to delaying impulses and so has a heightened enthusiasm and activity level to learn, to explore, and to develop “deepening” personal relationships. The period 6-10 years has been psychoanalyzed as one of complexity, psychosexual change, and latency. Cultural and constitutional factors and social influences become dominant, as the elementary school-age child emerges from a concrete and egocentric perspective to one of more formal thought processes and multiple relationships with parents and peers. The six to ten year old becomes acutely aware of differences and discriminatory characteristics between themselves and others.

Mental and Moral Development:

Erickson has described the early and middle school age years as the stage of industry versus inferiority. He points out the positive role-centered purposefulness associated with work and play in both home and outside the home environments. Within the social milieu of interactions, this school-age child uses social skills and a morally absolute level of social development to maximum advantage, as he prepares himself to take on adult-like roles and imitate “grown-up” behaviors. The child’s impulse to be just like mom and just like dad or a caretaker is strong and the child identifies readily with traits and characteristics of adults they like. “I want to be just like…” is a common thought and verbalization of this age group.

Learning difficulties are common manifestations of this age period. Cognitive as well as emotional and behavioral outcomes are seen as psychological when families under stress seek counseling and family support. Learning and attention-deficit disorders may include deficits in auditory recognition and memory, visual-motor problems, aphasia, apraxia, and other stereotypical conditions. In this age group, tics, saccadic eye or muscle movements, tremulousness, or anxiety symptoms may appear. These are classified as social illness pathology associated with childhood.

Maturational as well environmental aspects of the normal developmental process are more recently known to account for the ability of children with learning difficulties to compensate and recover from sensory deficits. Children 6-10 years of age are now thought to have a wide range of adaptive abilities and coping strengths that supersede the events and effects of physical abuse. Family education and parenting programs have been studied and found to increase the intellectual skills, competencies, and effectiveness of school-age children.

Cognition and Emotional Development:

The role of cognition has been shown to positively relate to teaching families how to use coping strategies as a family system instead of treating parents as possessing a set of symptoms that includes blame and guilt. When families are supported by an advocacy therapeutic approach, positive factors are shown to influence the educational experience of school-age children.

These include:

  • an emotional sense of security, curiosity, and creativity;
  • language and communication competence and complexity;
  • self-assurance and increasing self-esteem, as well as low levels of social aggression,
  • impulsivity, and anxiety toward the behavior of others.

Children in this age group are more eager to be generous and fair in their approach to gender roles, sex roles and others’ personality traits.

Social and Cultural Growth:

The cultural significance of this age is that children incorporate the values and beliefs of their families and transmit this first-hand knowledge to the community in which they reside. Their ethnic sense of belonging to the concentrated family group gives them confidence and self-assurance. They imitate and model aspects of familiar intimacy and family traditions. Family ties and family history are of interest to elementary age children because they give them “roots” and security associated with the home environment.

Cultural repercussions caused by social and work-related family lifestyles greatly affect the school-age child. Multiple caregivers, changing school and home environments, parental-marital and professional-career status, and societal trends such as drugs, sexual activity at earlier ages, nuclear energy, war, waste and pollution, unemployment, minority discrimination, and vast technological and media changes all contribute to various degrees to the cultural and intellectual capacity of the child to develop and behave.

Consequences of these social alienation events appear to cause even the youngest school-age children to develop deficits and deficiencies associated with adaptive give and take developmental traits. Sleeping and eating disorders as well as attention-deficit disorders are increasingly observed and diagnosed in the 6-10 age group. Drug use and overt sexual activity, which in previous generations, were transmitted to adolescents and youth are now observed and diagnosed in 6-10 year-old child.

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