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Physical and Cognitive Development of Middle School Children

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Physical Development of Middle School Children

A. Growth Patterns

1. The rapid growth of infancy and early childhood slows

2. During this time, children grow at a rate of about 3” or 4” per year until puberty

Cognitive Development

A. The Nature of Thought Processes

Until about age seven, the child's thought processes are not logical, and the child is becoming adept at using symbols in speech, play, gestures and mental pictures.

From about age seven to eleven, the child develops logic based on objects and states that can be manipulated. She can relate dimensions, appreciate that some aspects of objects remain the same despite changes in appearance, and classify elements into hierarchies.

Selective attention increases and becomes more reliable, sustained and selective, as incidental learning decreases between the ages of 7 and 11. Several conditions can interfere with the child's ability to selectively attend to school tasks: attention deficit disorder, certain perceptual learning disabilities, and certain emotional difficulties such as preoccupation with home problems which prohibit the child from paying attention in class.

Cognitive skills generally increase with age, but vary greatly during development. Some children have more difficulty in school than others do regarding using these skills and comprehending concepts.

The ability to use concepts and rules increases at this time.

Causal reasoning begins (as opposed to precausal reasoning which is typical of early childhood development). The child's reasoning is based on concrete, rather than abstract thinking. For example, the abused child at this age is likely to find a specific, concrete cause for the mistreatment i.e. "I was hit because I broke the lamp".

B. Role Taking

During this stage of development, egocentrism decreases and the ability to take on another's perspective increases.

 A child who has not yet developed the capacity to see another's perspective, reflects egocentrism in his speech, and may leave out pertinent details in relating information to others, because he assumes the other person has the same information that he has.

The ability to take on roles varies with specific situations.

The ability to understand social complexities and issues develops over time.

The ability to take on another's perspective makes it possible for children to play board and strategy games.

C. Problem Solving Skills

Children at this age can be taught systematic problem solving

Although the thinking process is generally concrete, a child at this age can be taught some abstract concepts if she is given verbal or physical concrete examples of the new concept.

Children under the age of 11 do not generalize, or grasp general concepts. The abused child, for example, has no understanding of all the dynamic causative factors which lead to abuse.

D. Memory

Memory continues to develop between the ages of 6 and 11

The interaction of memory and advances in cognition may result in improved memory over time. For example, a child may more accurately remember an incident 6 months after it happens as compared to a month after it happens

E. Language

Early in this stage of development, as cognitive competence increases, children become aware of the rules of grammar. This is called metalinguistic awareness.

After the age of 8, the child has attained a more mature, abstract level of linguistic competence, closely linked to increasing metalinguistic awareness. The child reflects on language and makes judgments that rely on the language itself, as adults do.

With greater metalinguistic awareness comes the appreciation of ambiguity, and the different meanings of words. This enables children of this age to create metaphors and jokes.

Ask Dr. Susan