Wheel of Child Development
1.5 - 4 YRS COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT AND LANGUAGE 1.5 - 4 YRS MORAL DEVELOPMENT 1.5 - 4 YRS SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL DEVELOPMENT 1.5 - 4 YRS PHYSICAL/SENSORY MOTOR DEVELOPMENT 5 - 7 YRS PHYSICAL/SENSORY MOTOR DEVELOPMENT 5 - 7 YRS SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL DEVELOPMENT 5 - 7 YRS MORAL DEVELOPMENT 5 - 7 YRS COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT & LANGUAGE 8 - 12 YRS PHYSICAL/SENSORY MOTOR DEVELOPMENT 8 - 12 YRS SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL DEVELOPMENT 8 - 12 YRS MORAL DEVELOPMENT 8 - 12 YRS COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT & LANGUAGE The Wheel: Child Development in Practice 13 - 18 YRS COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT & LANGUAGE 13 - 18 YRS MORAL DEVELOPMENT 13-18 YRS SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL DEVELOPMENT 13-18 YRS PHYSICAL/SENSORY MOTOR DEVELOPMENT

1.5 - 4 YRS COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT AND LANGUAGE

 

As noted by (Linder, 2000) early cognitive development is comprised of a number categories of play, that combined, increase cognition. Categories of play include: exploratory/sensory motor play, relational play, constructive play, dramatic play, games with rules, rough-and-tumble play. Attention span development, early object use, symbolic and representational play, gestrual imitation, problem-solving approaches, discrimination/classification, one-to-one correspondence, sequencing ability and drawing ability are also all part of cognitive development. As an example of the emerging complexity in play, a 1 year old can combine two blocks, the 2 year old can stack blocks and knock them down, but true constructive play (manipulation of objects for the purpose of constructing or creating something) is not predominant until 3-3.5 years of age. This example is one of many observable actions indicative of cognitive development.

During early childhood, play skills and sensory experiences are essential building blocks to increasingly complex cognitive development. Toddlers are intensely interested in understanding their own bodies and the physical and social world. By 18 months of age, children want to how things work such as a comb, opening things, moving and looking inside things etc. The toddler's observation skills have increased to the point that internal maps are forming to predict home environments and relationships. This aged child becomes aware if something is missing or out of place and he can become distressed because of this. This is an important fact when caregivers are making changes such as moving to new houses or changing routines or rituals. It is a critical issue when reviewing divorce and caregiving practices. Interruption to early brain neuro-pathway development can produce troubling effects

By the age of 2, a child identifies the self as either male of female. This development is related to the beginning of autobiographical memory which is the ability of the child to identify things about the self as separate and unique of those around them, particularly primary caregivers. It is also related to the fact children can begin to represent and use an object for something other than what is intended (i.e., using a box as a train). It is the beginning of the emergence of self and is the reason it is a difficult time for parents who are not ready for a child to assert him/herself as a person who has separate needs, and ideas to that of his/her caregiver.

Toddlers begin to identify patterns and regularities in their daily lives. They begin to predict caregiver behavior and have learned expectations about caregivers. By 2 years of age the child can think ahead wonder what will happen but it is a time of potential distress as the young child can understand something will happen but he does not know what. Transitions for 2-3 year olds can be difficult. This is a rapid time of imitation of caregivers and by approximately 20 months of age toddlers form a conscious goal and keep the goal in mind (Kagan, 1981). This means that it is not as easy to distract a child of this age. Deflections are easier for a 1 year old, but for the 2 year old, the goal remains in mind until she is satisfied (or is stopped by a caregiver).

Play offers a vehicle for children to explore alternative ways to be in the world. Singer (1993) notes preschoolers enter the symbolic play phase and through this play, increase their understanding of construction of narrative, cause-and-effect thinking and perspective taking. The development of play in children increases the exploration of reality as children move from egocentric and magical thinking to a more logical and reality-based view of the world.

Piaget (1896-1980) was a researcher who was interested in understanding the development of understanding. His theory has been widely influential and studied over time. Piaget's stages are defined sequentially and qualitatively and therefore it is important to consider the point that the age of the child is less important than the conceptual milestones and their sequences when looking at cognitive development. For those doing actual formal assessments the issues that get in the way of identifying capacities of various aged children are more often related to the child's motivation, attention, compliance, language and/ or expression of anxiety (Garber, 2010). When meeting with children, it is important to consider these factors before saying a child does or does not demonstrate a particular cognitive ability or skill.

If you are meeting with a child within the age band of 1.5-4 years, Piaget (1983) would note that the child is in either the Sensorimotor Period (0-2 years) or Pre-operational Stage of cognitive development (2-7 years) years. During the Sensorimotor Period, the child experiences the world through direct sensation and use of the five senses through motor contact. Infants learn through spontaneous discovery of how her body works. It is the beginning of self-regulation through such things as thumb-sucking. By 6-8 months infants learn that objects continue to exist even when out of sight (object permanence). Object permanence is about spacial learning and a necessary precedence to more complex problem-solving abilities. Typically by the end of the first year of life, the child explores her environment through crawling, rolling, pulling self on the floor, etc. Imitation of vocal sounds and facial expressions are observed. Early symbolic thinking comes on-line with young children (18 months) beginning to experiment with casue-and-effect outcomes through dropping toys or food, and waiting for parent reactions to such behaviors. Associations begin to form.

During the Pre-operational Stage the major characteristics and developmental changes are that children begin to think symbolically and learn to use words and pictures to represent objects. This age group tends to be very egocentric and sees things only from their point of view; struggling to see things from the perspective of others. Although language skills are improving, children in this age group tend to think about things in concrete terms. Three - 4 year olds are in the middle of pre-operational thinking stage and therefore are less sophisticated than the 5-7 year old age group. Their attention spans and play sequences are shorter and this age group will move relatively quickly from one play scene/action to another.

Language and Play-Based Communication

By the age of 1, a child can initiate a topic by a combination of glances and vocalizations. He can maintain one or two turns between self and other and typically can demonstrate one-half utternances on a topic mostly in reference to routines. The content of communication is limited to what is physically present. By age 2-3 years of age, a child can introduce a topic and can engage in a short dialogue, usually scaffolded by an adult.

Preschoolers demonstrate emerging language and communication skills, symbolic play ability, cognitive development (generalization and thinking in categories, increased memory, increased awareness of causality), increased self-regulation (ability to imagine and anticipate consequences of behavior), increased internalization of moral values and self-monitoring and an increased sense of self that grows out of competence and autonomy. When working with preschoolers, expressive and creative play-based activities are essential and are the primary form of communication. Play and expressive-based approaches are therefore the fundamental skill set necessary for practitioners working with this age band (Yasenik & Gardner, 2017).

What can be expected from a normally developing 1.5-4 year old? Look for the following:

  • 1 year plus: Child can engage in construtive play (constructing something with an end goal in mind)
  • 2- 4 years plus: Child can engage in increasing representational/symbolic play. Symbolic play includes an increasing use of abstract representations of actual objects as well as use of imaginary objects. By 2 years old for instance, the child can also use multischeme combinations such as feed a doll with a bottle, pat the doll on the back and put it to bed. By 3- 4 years, the child can use imaginary objects in play and act out sequences with miniature dolls (house, garage, airport). At 3 years of age, a child can make dolls carry out several activities or roles and two dolls can interact with each other. Imaginary characters can immerge at this age. (Symbolic and Represenational Skills)
  • From age 2 the child can discriminate sizes of objects and can build blocks horizontially and vertically. At 2.5 years a child can relate one experience to another using logic and knowledge of previous experiences. This aged child can use "if" ..."then" logic (Problem-solving skills)
  • By 3- 3.5 years, a child can build a block structure using nice cubes, use graduated sizes in order, and practice with balance and coordination. (Problem-solving skills).
  • 3 yrs plus: Child engages in rough and tumble play (inlcudes things such as runnning, hoping, tickling , rolling on the floor, playful punching/hitting. This not viewed as aggressive when done in a playful manner). (Category of Play)
  • 3 yrs plus: Can sort by on criterion (shape or color) without getting confused. After 3, child can sort objects by size, groupings, can classify objects into different categories, match symbols, identify left and right, put together a complex puzzle, build elaborate symmetrical/asymmetrical block structures (Discrimination/Classification skills)
  • 3 yrs plus: can count up to 5 objects (one-to-one correspondence)
  • 3 yrs plus: can understand tall, short - later tallest, largest, shortest, smallest (Sequencing Ability)
  • 3 yrs plus: Can count objects in sequence, can put three pictures together to tell a story, knows to read a book left to right and top to bottom and can tell you what is first, middle and last (sequencing Ability).
  • 3 yrs plus: Draws a circle, can draw a face of a person
  • 4 yrs plus: Draws stick figure, copies triangle, square, diamond, adds trunk and arms to person drawing, draws identifiable objects without copying, copies own name, copies numbers (Drawing skills).
  • 2.5- 4yrs: The ways a child represents self is through simple taxonomic attributes in the form of abilities, activities and possessions. "I have blue eyes", "I can run fast", "My name is Robbie", "I like icecream", "I have a red truck". Young children use words for time and distance and relationships and size before they understand their meanings. Young children cannot talk about abstract concepts, rather they use concrete examples.
  • 2-3 year olds cannot categorize such as "anything like this happen before"? This age group will say something about something he/she has no knowledge of if you ask a question - he/she will make up answers to please you or to get something "right".
  • 2-3 yrs: Can introduce a topic and engage in a short dialogue of a few turns. At this time a child can gain assistance by adults as they are provided choices and repetition is used
  • 3-4 yrs: Can engage in a dialogue beyond a few turns. This age band is more aware of social aspects of discourse. There is some acknowledgment of a partner's turn and the older of this aged child can determine how much information a listener needs

Feedback to Parents

You may not be an expert in social-emotional development, but you can sharpen your observation skills. When meeting with 1.5 - 4 year olds you may want to identify the following to a caregiver/parent:

Any obvious cognitive delays that may include: language, ability to sequence, draw, discriminate, problem-solve, imitate etc. This is an age group that requires some expertise to decipher the delay from individual differences and environmental interruptions. If you observe something that you think is not "on-track" it is better to raise it than not to. The window of opportunity for recovery and intervention for very young children is great. Some caregivers may not be sophisticated enough to catch some early issues.

Make a referral to:

  • Occupational Therapist
  • Registerd Child and Play Therapist - Child Specialist
  • Pediatrician

Piaget's Stages

1.5 - 4 YRS MORAL DEVELOPMENT

 

  • Child can intermittently inhibit his/her behavior
  • Child begins to show internalized values and can reach out to others
  • Child is motivated by avoiding punishment
  • Child is motivated by self- interest ( I will get something if I do this)
  • Child copies adult behavior (positive or negative)
  • Child's secure attachment organization to main caregiver(s) predicts higher level of empathy for others
  • Frequent breakdowns in managing self-control
  • The younger the child in this age band, the more likely it will be that the child cannot consistently follow directions or limits
  • Child can demonstrate some pro-social behaviors such as providing comfort, sympathy, helping, sharing , cooperating, protection, defense
  • Child, if highly aroused (distressed), cannot follow parent expectations
  • Child cannot bring behavior under control independently
  • Child plays out "discipline scenes" with dolls or play objects (stuffies)
  • Child talks to self out loud "bad Sally, can't do that" (beginning of internal dialogue skill)

Feedback to Parents

You may not be an expert in moral development, but you can sharpen your observation skills. When meeting with 1.5 - 4 year olds you may want to identify the following to a caregiver/parent:

Child's strengths or weaknesses in early moral development
Child's limitations re: ability to internalize and modify behavior independently
Child cannot consistently comply
Negative parent behavior is damaging to development of moral development
Inconsistent caregiver intervention decreases pro-social behavior

Make a referral to:

  • Early childhood education parent group
  • Attachment specialist
  • Registered play therapist
  • Individual parent coach/developmental specialist

Kohlberg's Stages

1.5 - 4 YRS SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL DEVELOPMENT

 

Social-emotional development is the foundation upon which all healthy relationships are built. It is linked to early development and attachment (see chapter on attachment). It is about the child's experience with relatedness during early caregiving years and about "give and take" experiences. It is associated with the ability to form trusting relationships during a time when the brain is undergoing the most dramatic growth. As basic motor abilities form, language comes on-line, thinking gets more complex and children begin to understand their own feelings and of those of others.

Erikson (1950, 1959, 1968) developed a theory that identifies eight stages in which a healthy developing person passes through from infancy to late adulthood. It is thought that all stages are present at birth but only begin to unfold with one's ecological and cultural upbringing. At each stage, the person confronts and hopefully masters new challenges. Each stage builds on the successful completion of the earlier one. It is theorized that if one does not meet the challenge of a stage in a positive way, that stage will reappear later as a social-emotional problem. If mastery of a stage does not occur, one can move to the next stage and be modified later.

Each stage is characterized by a psychosocial crisis of two conflicting forces. If an individual does indeed successfully reconcile these forces (favoring the first mentioned attribute in the crisis), he or she emerges from the stage with, for example, more trust than mistrust. If this occurs, he or she carries the virtue of the ability to approach relationships and life in a trusting manner into the remaining life stages.

ERIKSON'S STAGES:

  • Birth - 18 months: Trust vs. Mistrust
  • 18 months - 3 years: Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt
  • 3- 5 years: Initiative vs. Guilt
  • 6 through teens: Industry vs. Inferiority
  • Teens - 20's: Identity vs. Role Confusion
  • 20's- 40's: Intimacy vs. Isolation
  • 40's - 60's: Generativity vs. Stagnation
  • 60's - beyond Ego Integrity vs. Despair

Children from 1.5 - 4 years of age will span three stages in this model: Trust vs. Mistrust, Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt, Initiative vs. Guilt.

Trust vs. Mistrust (Birth to 18 months)

This stage is referred to as the oral-sensory stage occurring from infancy until 2 years of age. The question for the infant is "Can I trust the World?" This first stage of Erikson's theory is centred around the infant's basic needs which are met by caregivers. The child depends on his/her caregiver(s) for sustenance and comfort and that he/she will be attended to consistently and sensitively. This forms the basis for trusting relationships. During this stage the child's understanding of the world and society are formed. If caregivers fail to provide a secure environment re: meeting the child's basic needs; a sense of mistrust will result. If the child moves from this stage in mistrust, he it will be at risk of suspicion, withdrawal and a lack of confidence in others and the environment. Some minor experiences with mistrust is good, in that it prepares infants to understand what may constitute a dangerous situation later in life.

Initiative vs. Guilt (3- 5 years)

Around age three and continuing to age five, children assert themselves more frequently. These are particularly lively, rapid developing years in a child’s life.

During this period the primary feature involves the child regularly interacting with other children at preschool. Central to this stage is play, as it provides children with the opportunity to explore their interpersonal skills through initiating activities.

Children begin to plan activities, make up games, and initiate activities with others. If given this opportunity, children develop a sense of initiative, and feel secure in their ability to lead others and make decisions.

This stage of social emotional development may not be experienced in the positive frame. Children may be criticized or controlled by others and subsequently they may feel like they are unimportant and incompetent. This experience may interrupt the child from taking initiative.

The child may also avoid taking initiative due to over-protective caregiver experiences. The child may try to take initiative anyway, and the danger is that the caregivers will punish the child and further restrict any further initiative-taking behavior.

It is at this stage that the child will begin to ask many questions as his thirst for knowledge grows. If the parents treat the child’s questions as trivial, a nuisance or embarrassing or other aspects of their behavior as threatening then the child may have feelings of guilt for “being a nuisance”.

Too much guilt can make the child slow to interact with others and may inhibit their creativity. Some guilt is, of course, necessary, otherwise the child would not know how to exercise self control or have a conscience.

A healthy balance between initiative and guilt is important. Success in this stage will lead to the virtue of purpose.

A child's temperament (Thomas and Chess, 1977) contributes to the child's behavioral style. it is the characteristic way a child reacts to her environment. it is the "how" of behavior vs. the "what" or the "why". Temperament can influence social/emotional development. Temperament is not age-related and therefore must be viewed as an overall contributor to understanding each child. (See temperament Scale).

What can be expected from a normally developing 1.5 -4 year old? Look for the following (Linder, 2000):

  • 1.5 - 2 yrs : Child demands proximity of a familiar adult, alternates between clinging and resistance to a familiar adult, refers (attachment, separation, individuation)
  • 1.5 yrs: Child moves away from caregiver as home base into widening world. Brings toys to share with caregiver (attachment, separation, individuation)
  • 2- 2.5 yrs: Child is shy with strangers, especially adults; may hide against parent when introduced to strange adults, makes constant demands of parent's attention, clings tightly to caregiver (attachment, separation, individuation)
  • 3.0 - 4 yrs: Recognizes self in photograph, understands needs of other persons (attachment, separation, individuation)
  • 3.0 - 4 yrs: Child can answer whether he or she is a boy or girl, separates from parent without crying, joins other children in play (attachment, separation, individuation)
  • 1.5- 2 yrs: Child laughs at incongruous labeling of objects and events (calling a nose and ear) (Development of humor)
  • 2 - 3 yrs: Child laughs at combinations of incongruous events and use of words (milking a dog) (Development of humor)
  • 3- 4 yrs: Child laughs at concrete, perceptually incongruent events, distortions of familiar sights and sounds (rhyming and nonsense words) (Development of humor)
  • 1.5 - 2yrs: Child spends most group time in solitary activity, watching other children; interactive sequences become longer until role-sharing and turn-taking are evident (Social relations with peers)
  • 2 yrs plus: Child watches peers intently, child imitates peers, child watches, points at, takes toys of another child (Social relations with peers)
  • 2 - 3yrs: Child predominantly engages in parallel, noninteractive play (Social relations with peers)
  • 2- 4 yrs: Child's aggression increases and then declines (Social relations with peers)
  • 3- 3.5 yrs: Plays well with 2-3 other children in a group in associative play (Social relations with peers)
  • 3- 4 yrs: Child plays spontaneously with other children in more complex verbal ways, increased rough and tumble play. Some children begin cooperative play and group play replaces parallel play, social play is now preferred, interactions include talking, smiling and laughing (Social relations with peers)
  • 2- 4 yrs: Child is trying to individuate from caregiver(s) and maintain attachment
  • 2 yrs plus: The child has a develping sense of self and now uses the pronoun "I" and asserts own ideas, desires, needs

Feedback to Caregivers

You may not be an expert in social-emotional development, but you can sharpen your observation skills. When meeting with 1.5 -4 year olds you may want to identify the following to a caregiver/parent:

Any social delays (in play development)

Any flat affect/ non-engagement with peers (lack of interest)

Difficulties in normal separation and reunion with a caregiver

No reference to self / or appears not to recognize "self"

For older children in this age band- lack of asserting own interests and needs.

Make a referral to:

  • Occupational Therapist
  • Registered Child and Play Therapist - Child Specialist
  • Pediatrician
  • Developmental assessment
  • Parent groups/ peer group

 Circle of Security

The circle of security is discussed more fully in the Attachment Chapter. We have provided some attachments here from the circle of security website. They are from the section for professionals.

The Circle of Security materials can be accessed here:
https://www.circleofsecurityinternational.com/handouts

1.5 - 4 YRS PHYSICAL/SENSORY MOTOR DEVELOPMENT

 

When considering children in this age band observations can be made related to the child's movements during play. Observations can be made a) When the child plays with objects in a stationary position; b) When the child moves from one activity to another and c) when the child uses toys or objects that allows for gross motor movement (Linder, 2001). What is typical? Considerations are given to the size of the child as well as any genetic abnormalities and uneven growth regarding limbs (arms, legs). Other factors relate to muscle tone, strength and endurance, reactivity to sensory input, how the child positions his/her body during play (playing on stomach, back, sitting, play on hands and knees and standing). The observer will also pay attention to mobility in play and specific developmental achievements.

During this period of development, the brain is rapidly growing and organizing. By the age of 2, the brain weighs 75% of its eventual adult weight. Perry (1997) notes:

With a set of sufficient motor, sensory, emotional, cognitive, and social experiences during infancy and childhood, the mature brain develops in a use-dependent fashion, a mature, humane capacity to tolerate frustration, contain impulsivity, and channel aggressive urges. (p.129)

The observations of motor and sensory development are important as early childhood is the time period of laying all early foundations upon which every other age-band depends.

What can be expected from a normally developing 1.5-4 year old? Look for the following (Linder, 2001):

  • 1.5 yrs plus: Can seat self in small chair (mobility)
  • 1.5 yrs plus: Does not fall often (runs stiffly, eyes on ground) (mobility)
  • 1.5 yrs plus: Can squat to play (mobility)
  • 2-2.5 yrs plus: Can run, use whole foot contact; stops and starts (mobility)
  • 3-4 yrs plus: Runs around obstacles, turns corners (mobility)
  • 3.5-5 yrs plus: Walks with heel-to-toe-pattern (mobility)
  • 1.5 yrs- 2.5 yrs: Can jump from bottom step (jumping)
  • 2 - 5 yrs: Can jump over objects (jumping)
  • 2.5 yrs plus: Can hop on one foot for a few steps (jumping)
  • 3-4 yrs plus: Can skip on one foot (jumping)
  • 1.5-2 yrs plus: Can creep backwards down stairs and around 2 yrs can climb from an adult chair (climbing)
  • 1.5 - 2.5 yrs: Can walk down stairs without support; walks down stairs without support (climbing)
  • 2.5- 3 yrs plus : Walks up stairs, alternating feet, climbs easy apparatus (climbing)
  • 4 yrs plus: Can climb a small ladder (climbing)
  • 1.5 yrs : Walks into large ball to push it forward (ball skills)
  • 1.5- 2.5 yrs: Can throw a ball overhead (ball skills)
  • 2 yrs plus: kicks ball forward (ball skills)
  • 2.5 - 3 yrs: Can Catch ball from straight arm position, trapping ball against chest (ball skills)
  • 3- 4yrs: Can catch ball with with elbows bent in front of body and can throw ball against shoulder and elbow (ball skills)
  • 1.5 yrs: Can hold a crayon in fist with thumb up (development of grasp)
  • 2- 3 yrs: Can hold crayon with fingers, hand on top of crayon, forearm turned so thumb is directed downward (development of grasp)
  • 1. 5- 2 yrs: Can separate and pop beads and snip paper with scissors (development of manipulative prehension)
  • 1.5 - 2.5: Can string 3-4 beads (development of manipulative prehension)
  • 2- 2.5 yrs : Can fold paper in half , can turn door knob with forearm rotation, unbuttons large buttons, snips on line using scissors (development of manipulative prehension)
  • 2.5 yrs plus: Can button one or two buttons alone, hold paper in one hand while writing with other, use scissors to cut on a line (development of manipulative prehension)
  • 3 yrs plus: Can cut a circle with scissors (development of manipulative prehension)
  • 1 yrs - 3 yrs: Toddlers grow to about 29-38 inches in height and 20-33 lbs in weight in North America. Even though toddlers are developing motor skills, during this age span much energy will go to maintaining control of the body (especially between 1-2 yrs when there is a bigger gap between what a child wants to do and what he/she can do)
  • 2 - 3 yrs: Toddlers develop sufficient control of bladder and bowel muscles to be toilet trained.
  • 0-2 yrs: Brain development is rapid and then slows as the length and branching of neuronal circuits has almost reached adult levels. During early childhood, integration of functions is primary.

Feedback to Parent

You may not be an expert in physical/sensory motor development, but you can sharpen your observation skills. When meeting with 1.5 - 4 year olds you may want to identify the following to a caregiver/parent:

  • Any physical delays
  • Any observation of awkward use of body
  • Any lack of engagement /eye contact
  • Any difficulty with use of body (as per age)
  • Any lack of verbal communication - speech difficulties

Make a referral to:

  • Occupational Therapist
  • Registerd Child and Play Therapist - Child Specialist
  • Pediatrician
  • Family Doctor

5 - 7 YRS PHYSICAL/SENSORY MOTOR DEVELOPMENT

 

What can be expected from a normally developing 5-7 year old? Look for the following:

  • 3.5 - 5 yrs - Can walk with heel-to-toe pattern (Mobility)
  • 4.5 - 6 yrs Development of Grasp on pencil with use of index finger and thumb - fine localized movements in the hand
  • 3.5- 4 yrs - Can place a paper clip on paper and can open a small padlock with a key (manipulative prehension)
  • 5 yrs plus - Can color within lines (manipulative prehension)
  • 5- 6 yrs - Gallops with one foot and transfers weight smoothly and evenly (Jumping skill)
  • 6 yrs - Can hop in a straight line (Jumping skill)
  • 4-5 yrs - Can climb a ladder (climbing skill)
  • 3-5 yrs- Can throw, guiding the course of the ball with the fingers (ball skills)
  • 6 yrs - Can catch a ball with elbows at sides (ball skills)
  • 6-7 yrs- Can bounce and catch a tennis ball (ball skills)
  • 5-6 ys - Can prepare to leg to kick and follow through on the kick (ball skills)
  • 5-6 yrs - Some children can com straight up to sit from supine (mobility in prone and supine (lying on back) position

Feedback to Parents

You may not be an expert in child physical/sensory motor development, but you can sharpen your observation skills. Take notice if there are obvious issues with any of the skills listed. Most normally developing children can demonstrate these skills. Take notice if there are any awkward movements or does the child struggle to use his/her body in an age appropriate way? Does he/she have good muscle strength and can he/she execute motor planning such as coloring in the lines or fluidly move his/ her body from one activity to another without difficulty?

If during your meeting(s) with the child you notice any unusual anomalies, you will want to suggest the caregivers follow-up with one of the following professionals:

  • Physical Therapist
  • Occupational Therapist
  • Registered Play Therapist

5 - 7 YRS SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL DEVELOPMENT

 

Social-emotional development is the foundation upon which all healthy relationships are built. It is linked to early development and attachment (see chapter on attachment). It is about the child's experience with relatedness during early caregiving years and about "give and take" experiences. It is associated with the ability to form trusting relationships during a time when the brain is undergoing the most dramatic growth. As basic motor abilities form, language comes on-line, thinking gets more complex and children begin to understand their own feelings and of those of others.

Erikson (1950, 1959, 1968) developed a theory that identifies eight stages in which a healthy developing person passes through from infancy to late adulthood. It is thought that all stages are present at birth but only begin to unfold with one's ecological and cultural upbringing. At each stage, the person confronts and hopefully masters new challenges. Each stage builds on the successful completion of the earlier one. It is theorized that if one does not meet the challenge of a stage in a positive way, that stage will reappear later as a social-emotional problem. If mastery of a stage does not occur, one can move to the next stage and be modified later.

Each stage is characterized by a psychosocial crisis of two conflicting forces. If an individual does indeed successfully reconcile these forces (favoring the first mentioned attribute in the crisis), he or she emerges from the stage with, for example, more trust than mistrust. If this occurs, he or she carries the virtue of the ability to approach relationships and life in a trusting manner into the remaining life stages.

ERIKSON'S STAGES:

Birth - 18 months: Trust vs. Mistrust
18 months - 3 years: Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt
3- 5 years: Initiative vs. Guilt
6 through teens: Industry vs. Inferiority
Teens - 20's: Identity vs. Role Confusion
20's- 40's: Intimacy vs. Isolation
40's - 60's: Generativity vs. Stagnation
60's - beyond Ego Integrity vs. Despair

Children from 5- 7 years of age will span two stages in this model: Initiative vs. Guilt and Industry vs. Inferiority.

Initiative vs. Guilt

Around age three and continuing to age five, children assert themselves more frequently. These are particularly lively, rapid developing years in a child’s life.

During this period the primary feature involves the child regularly interacting with other children at preschool. Central to this stage is play, as it provides children with the opportunity to explore their interpersonal skills through initiating activities.

Children begin to plan activities, make up games, and initiate activities with others. If given this opportunity, children develop a sense of initiative, and feel secure in their ability to lead others and make decisions.

This stage of social emotional development may not be experienced in the positive frame. Children may be criticized or controlled by others and subsequently they may feel like they are unimportant and incompetent. This experience may interrupt the child from taking initiative.

The child may also avoid taking initiative due to over-protective caregiver experiences. The child may try to take initiative anyway, and the danger is that the caregivers will punish the child and further restrict any further initiative-taking behavior.

It is at this stage that the child will begin to ask many questions as his thirst for knowledge grows. If the parents treat the child’s questions as trivial, a nuisance or embarrassing or other aspects of their behavior as threatening then the child may have feelings of guilt for “being a nuisance”.

Too much guilt can make the child slow to interact with others and may inhibit their creativity. Some guilt is, of course, necessary, otherwise the child would not know how to exercise self control or have a conscience.

A healthy balance between initiative and guilt is important. Success in this stage will lead to the virtue of purpose.

Industry versus inferiority is the fourth stage of Erik Erikson's theory of psychosocial development. This stage occurs during childhood between the ages of five and twelve.

Cognitively, children are beginning to learn to read and write and are generally more independent. Teachers begin to take an important role in the child’s life as they teach the child specific skills.

The child’s peer group gains greater significance and becomes a major source of the child’s self esteem. The child through demonstrating specific competencies gains approval. Children learn they are valued by society, and begin to develop a sense of pride in their accomplishments. Encouragement and reinforcement of initiatives increases the desire for a child to be more industrious. Children also gain in confidence related to their abilities which motivates them to reach various goals.

If taking initiative is not encouraged, or if it is restricted by caregivers or teachers, the child begins to feel inferior, doubting his abilities. This negative frame may cause the child not to reach his or her potential.

If the child cannot develop the specific skill he/she feels society is demanding (e.g., being athletic; reaching an academic standard) then he/she may develop a sense of inferiority. Not all failure leads to inferiority. A balance between competence and modesty is important to this stage of development. Success in this stage will lead to the virtue of competence and industry.

A child's temperament (Thomas and Chess, 1977) contributes to the child's behavioral style. it is the characteristic way a child reacts to her environment. it is the "how" of behavior vs. the "what" or the "why". Temperament can influence social/emotional development. Temperament is not age-related and therefore must be viewed as an overall contributor to understanding each child. (See temperament Scale).

What can be expected from a normally developing 5-7 year old? Look for the following:

  • Child makes positive statements about being able to make decisions about basic things - likes and dislikes, positive statements about leading various actions or activities
  • Positive statements are made about child having impact on family members and friends
  • Positive statements about self-competencies
  • Statements about being valued by others - caregivers, teachers, friends
  • Statements about valuing others
  • Statements that suggest the child is encouraged by others
  • Statements are made related to pride to do with accomplishments
  • Statements related to reinforcement of taking initiative and child indicates a desire to "do more" "try more things" etc.

Feedback to Parents

You may not be an expert in social-emotional development, but you can sharpen your observation skills.

If you notice the child making negative self-statements or stating "I can't" or "I'm not good at this or that" you will want to raise this as significant related to social-emotional development.

You may also observe the child as being constricted by his/her environment. This could be related to over-controlling caregivers or family members. It may also be in relation to over-protective caregivers. Not enough room to explore and to try things on in order to gain a sense of competency or mastery may interfere with social-emotional development. If children are in positions of family conflict or dysfunction, they may not be supported to develop positive virtues.

If a child has a temperament profile that requires more support to meet the positive outcomes of Erikson's stages of social-emotinal development, caregivers may need to modify their behaviors to better support, encourage and understand their child.

You may want to refer the parents to:

  • A Social group
  • Registered Play and Expressive Child Therapist
  • Parent Coach
  • Family Counselor

5 - 7 YRS MORAL DEVELOPMENT

 

Morality is related to the capacity to take responsibility for one's own actions. Moral reasoning develops from infancy continuing to adulthood. It begins with a concrete here and now thinking and moves to abstract perspective taking. The development of abstract thinking leads the way to making decisions for the greater good (McGrath and Brown, 2008). Early childhood is controlled by reinforcement, punishment, direct instruction and modeling. These influences are provided by significant others and are at first experienced as an external standard that a child follows. As time goes on, children begin to internalize rules of behavior and their behavior comes under personal control through evaluations of self-reactions.

Moral development is also linked to distinguishing the truth from a lie. As noted by Talwar and Lee (2001) more 7 year olds will lie than for instance 3 year olds, because 7 year- olds can contemplate potential negative consequences of being impulsively honest and they aim to avoid adversive personal outcomes. Lying is an expected normative action for all people. Taking credit for success and blaming others for failure maintains a positive self-view.

Lawrence Kohlberg expanded on the earlier work of cognitive theorist Jean Piaget to explain the moral development of children. Kohlberg believed that moral development, like cognitive development, follows a series of stages. He used the idea of moral dilemmas—stories that present conflicting ideas about two moral values—to teach 10 to 16 year-old boys about morality and values. The best known moral dilemma created by Kohlberg is the "Heinz" dilemma, which discusses the idea of obeying the law versus saving a life. Kohlberg emphasized that it is the way an individual reasons about a dilemma that determines positive moral development. Kohlberg identified 3 levels of morality each containing two stages, which provide the basis for moral development in various contexts.

Each level of morality contains two stages, which provide the basis for moral development in various contexts. The pre-conventional level one of moral reasoning is especially common in children, although adults can also exhibit this level of reasoning. Reasoners at this level judge the morality of an action by its direct consequences.

Children 5-7 are typically in Level 1 (stage 1 and stage 2) and Level 2 (stage 3) of moral development according to Kohlberg's stage model. The first two levels of moral development are as follows:

Level 1: Preconventional Morality

Stage 1: A child's sense of morality is externally controlled through obedience and punishment. A behavior is viewed as wrong if it is punished. Children accept and believe the rules of authority figures, such as parents and teachers, and they judge an action based on its consequences. At this stage of preconventional morality, there is no internalized sense of right and wrong, rather, something is wrong because the consequences could result in punishment. An example of this
is "the last time I did this i was spanked or I had to go to my room" so I will not do that again. The more extreme the punishment, the more the act is viewed as "bad". It is a time of egocentricity; a lack of understanding that one is not the centre of all things.

Stage 2: During stage 2 of preconventional morality (individualism and exchange), a child is self-interest driven; "what's in it for me"? The child's behaviors are therefore defined from a best interest point of view. There is a limited interest in the needs of others, but only in as much as it furthers the child/person's own interests. In other words, this stage is not about loyalty to others, rather it is about "you do something for me and I will do something for you". All actions at this stage have the purpose of serving the individual's needs or interests. For example, a child may be asked to do a chore for a parent and the child asks "what is in it for me"? Parents often provide incentives to young children such as rewards and allowance in exchange for the action from the child. The child is motivated by self-interest at this stage.

Level 2: Conventional Morality

By age 7 some children move towards the next level of moral development (Conventional Morality, Stage 3). Throughout Conventional Morality , a child's sense of morality is tied to personal and societal relationships. Children continue to accept the rules of authority figures, but this is now due to their belief that this is necessary to ensure positive relationships and societal order. Adherence to rules and conventions is somewhat rigid during these stages, and a rule's appropriateness or fairness is seldom questioned.

Stage 3: Good Boy, Nice Girl Orientation
In stage 3, children want the approval of others and act in ways to avoid disapproval. Emphasis is placed on good behavior and people being "nice" to others. Children want to be liked and thought well of and they now understand that being "good" results in positive responding by caregivers and others. "People like me when I am good". Conforming to rules for one's social role is not yet fully understood at this stage.

What can be expected from a normally developing 5-7 year old? Look for the following:

  • Good and bad statements about personal behavior and parent behavior
    "My mom does bad things"
    "My dad does good things"
    " I am good"
    " My brother is bad"
  • All or nothing thinking
    "I hate my mom"
    "I love my dog"
    "My dad is bad"
    "My mom is always fun"
    "My dad never does anything fun"
  • Behavior based on Punishment or Reward
    "My mom said I have to ....or I will have a time out"
    "My teacher said I can't... or I will have to sit out"
    " If I hit my brother I can't play with my Ipad"
  • Behavior based on pleasing others
    "My mom needs me to ..."
    "My dad likes me to ...."
    " I am good because my mom says so"
    " My dad says I am good when I..."Be aware in separation that children in the above stages of Moral Development will make stark statements that do not encompass abstract thinking or "grey" thinking where "good and bad" can exist at the same time. Verbatim statements need to be scrutinized with moral development in mind.

Feedback to Parents

You may not be an expert in moral development, but you can sharpen your observation skills.

Help caregivers know that children have all or nothing thinking. You can let parents know that their young children use caregiver behavior(s) as a model for their behavior. You may need to help caregivers to help their child to avoid "joining with one parent over the other" because due to the Level and stage of moral development, their child will join with them to avoid getting in trouble. You may also share that children adjust their behavior to be "good" or to be "loved". Five-to-seven year olds are not capable of decision-making that is motivated by other than getting out of trouble, self-gain (i.e, gifts, rewards, allowance) or to please others to "be good".

You must keep in mind that the older the child in this age band, the more likely the child will be able to anticipate various consequences. The older child will want to avoid negative personal outcomes. The cognitive ability to "think ahead" is different for a 5 year old than a 7 year old. This being true, the 7 year old will likely lie more often to serve his/her own needs.

The child and/or child and caregivers may need one of the following:

Registered Play Therapist/Child Development Specialist
Family Therapist
Coach (Conflict Coach for one or both caregivers)

Video of Kohlberg's Stages

5 - 7 YRS COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT & LANGUAGE

 

As noted by (Linder, 2000) early cognitive develpment is comprised of categories of play, attention span, early object use, symbolic and representational play, gestrual imitation, problem-solving approaches, discrimination/classification, one-to-one correspondence, sequencing ability and drawing ability.

During middle childhood, previously compartmentalized concepts are expanded by basic interconnected concepts. All-or-nothing thinking continues but thinking in opposites is possible such as up vs. down and big vs small and tall vs. short. Opposites are observed within descriptions of self and others and the use of "good and bad" are observed yet there is no possibility of the child being "good and bad" at the same time. There is no integration of emotions such as "happy and sad" but they can now weave together two emotions such as "happy and excited". The liability in this age band is therefore the inability to to possess both negative and positive characteristics at the same time. As Harter (2012) shared of a five year old interviewee "Nope, no there's no way you could be smart and dumb at the same time. You only have one mind!" (p. 52).

Piaget (1896-1980) was a researcher who was interested in understanding the development of understanding. His theory has been widely influential and studied over time. Piaget's stages are defined sequentially and qualitatively and therefore it is important to consider the point that the age of the child is less important than the conceptual milestones and their sequences when looking at cognitive development. For those doing actual formal assessments the issues that get in the way of identifying capacities of various aged children are more often related to the child's motivation, attention, compliance, language and/ or expression of anxiety (Garber, 2010). When meeting with children, it is important to consider these factors before saying a child does or does not demonstrate a particular cognitive ability or skill.

If you are meeting with a child within the age band of 5-7 years, Piaget (1983) would note that the child is in the Pre-operational Stage of cognitive development and this stage spans from age 2-7 years. The major characteristics and developmental changes are that children begin to think symbolically and learn to use words and pictures to represent objects. This age group tends to be very egocentric and sees things only from their point of view; struggling to see things from the perspective of others. Although language skills are improving, children in this age group tend to think about things in concrete terms.

Language Development
A lot happens and can be communicated by a child before speech and language are ever used. Language skills are acquired in a uniform way through a number of steps. It is important to know that receptive language and expressive language come on-line at different times. Long before a child can express himself in words, he can understand or comprehend what is being said to him or around him. This is often not acknowledged by caregivers who say things in front of their toddler for instance and claim "he can't understand what we are saying". Caregivers tend to base this on the number of words a their toddler knows vs. an awareness of how comprehension without language works. Garber (2010) notes:

Language comprehension precedes expression, in part, because meaning is first derived preverbally through prosody, the contextual clues that accompany words (e.g., intonation, emotion and behavior). When an infant experiences an utterance consistently paired with pleasure, for example, that utterance by itself begins to carry pleasurable meaning. This early and constant "paired associate" method of learning amounts to what might be called emotional communication. (p.59)

Some children will demonstrate language that is deemed advanced of his/her peers. This can be due to advanced cognitive development or it may be imitation related to exposure of adult issues due to family dysfunction. In the case of family dysfunction pay attention to how the child's vocabulary is used. It may sound out of sinc with other things the child says. It may sound rigid, or stereotyped. The child may not be able to explain what he/she means by what he/she says. It is always important to ask a child "what do you mean by that?" Unfortunately, children feel rewarded by parents who share too much or expect them to "join" them inappropriately. It is difficult if not impossible for this aged child to accurately distinguish the self well from "other".

A process of assimilation, accommodation and equilibration is underway during this stage of cognitive development. Assimilation is when a child uses existing schema (knowledge) such as identifying a dog as a "puppy" and then through learning adds a new object to that existing schema such as poodle. If the child is faced with something that does not work with the existing schema such as Koala, the child will need to accommodate this new animal by increasing his/her schemata to deal with new information. Equilibration occurs when a child's schemas can deal with most new information through assimilation. When new information cannot "fit" a process of disequilibrium occurs. Frustration can accompany this process and therefore the learning process is triggered to master the challenge of accommodation. Adjustments are being made all along the developmental path until adulthood.

What can be expected from a normally developing 5-7 year old? Linder (2000), identifies the following for observation purposes:

  • 5 yrs plus - Children are interested in games with rules ( considered a category of play in play development). Play leads all forms of development, but cognitively, the emergence of interest in games with rules indicates a child can engage in an activity with accepted rules or limits with shared expectations and some willingness to engage in an "agree upon" way to play.
  • 5 yrs plus - Children can link schemes into complex scripts (early object use). What are schemes and scripts? An early schematic example would be an infant taking a block and placing it on top of another block. An advanced example of schemes linking to actual scripts is when a child is in dramatic play where she pretends to make dinner, serve it, wash the dishes, and go to bed. This is a linking of schemes and demonstrates a number of sequences that get woven into a whole with a beginning, middle and end. Following the ability to string schemes together to create scripts, by the ages of 4-5 years, children are capable of using imaginary characters within play.
  • 5 yrs plus- Organizes other children and props for role-play. Can direct the actions of at least 3 dolls, making them interact (Symbolic and Representational Skills).
  • 6 yrs plus- Can direct dolls, where each doll plays more than one role at a time (i.e., one doll can be mother, doctor, daughter). In this case experts in the field of cognitive development would identify this as "role intersection" as the child demonstrates a growing understanding of roles and categories of behavior (Symbolic and Representational Skills).
  • 5 yrs plus- Imitates scenes from different aspects of life; pieces together into new script (Imitation Skills). This is important because you will see in play new sequences made up of pieces of action that come from memories and that represent relationships with others.
  • 5 yrs plus- Can construct complex structures with with vertical, horizontal, symmetrical aspects. The child can integrate spatial, cause-and-effect, and representational thinking into problem-solving (Problem-solving Skills).
  • 5-6 yrs plus - Can identify objects that do not belong in a group; can identify abstract characteristics (living as opposed to nonliving ); matches letters; discriminates and names letters. (Discrimination/Classification Skills). Descrimination skills increase with age and these skills allow a child, to for instance, put together a complex puzzle or build elaborate symmetrical or asymmetrical block structures
  • 5 yrs plus - Can count up to 10 objects; understands "more", "less", "same" ; can count objects, enumerating each object once; identifies and names numbers; can match the number of items in a set to the correct number; understands concept of zero (One-to-one Correspondence). Understanding of number concepts does not occur until 4-5 years old, although younger children can understand the underlying principles of counting.
  • 5 yrs plus - Counts objects in sequence with one-to-one correspondences; Can put three pictures in a sequence to tell a story; knows sequence of reading book, from left to right and top to bottom; knows first, middle and last (Sequencing Abilities).
  • 5-6 yrs plus- Can place objects in order from shortest to tallest, and smallest to largest; Can combine letters into words (Sequencing Abilities).
  • 5-6 yrs - Copies rectangle; copies letters and numbers with more accuracy, but still has many errors (Sequencing Abilities).
  • 5-6 yrs - Copies rectangles; Copies letters and numbers with more accuracy, but still has many errors (Drawing Skills).
  • 5 -7 yrs - black and white /all or nothing thinking. This age group does not describe both favorable and unfavorable attributes at the same time.
  • 5 year olds can modify language when talking to a younger child and they have an increased awareness of the listener's role and understanding. Related to content, an average 5 year old can discuss state, feelings, emotions and attitudes. 5 year olds predominantly use the verbs "be" and "do". They use terms like before or after and can refer to above, below, and at the bottom.
  • 5- 6 year olds can stay with a topic through about a dozen or more turns and their conversation begins to sound a lot like an adult. At this age, the child's ability to make indirect requests increases. This aged child can also use locational prepositions such as "in a week". He can also use directions in reference to the body such as to the left or right.
  • In terms of self-representation, children in early to middle childhood will focus on specific competencies. Children in this age group present narratives that demonstrate an increase in the telling of their autobiographical stories. Included in their narratives are such things as future plans and a greater sense of self-continuity. A metacognitive self-awareness appears to come on line but the child's stories are typically about positive overestimations of competencies and they tend to include more social references about friends. They tend to be full of virtuosity.

Feedback to Parents

You may not be an expert in cognitive development but you can sharpen your observation skills. Take notice of how the child expresses and represents concepts. Of concern for this age group is when a child has difficulty expressing things either verbally or non-verbally. If you observe a child as having missing skills or you observe a child as cognitively delayed or regressed (due to anxiety related family stress for instance) you will need to let the caregiver know that that there are things you observed that should be further assessed.

You may observe a child as expressing things verbally that are outside the developmental expectations for a 5-7 year old. You may observe immobilization in your meeting with the child, meaning that the child could not engage in the activities you introduced. This could be due to intervening variables such as anxiety or temperament (internalizing for instance), but never-the-less you notice that the child appears on track cognitively, but not able to be fully present in your meeting emotionally.

You may refer a child to one or more of the following professionals/ professional services:

  • Psycho-Educational Assessment
  • Pediatrician
  • Registered Play Therapist

Piaget Stages

8 - 12 YRS PHYSICAL/SENSORY MOTOR DEVELOPMENT

 

When considering children in this age band observations can be made related to growth (height), weight, fine motor skills (including hand/eye coordination and printing and cursive writing skills) and secondary sex characteristics. It is during this period that prepubescence occurs with secondary sex characteristics forming during 9-11 years of age. At age 6 children weigh an average of 48-49 pounds and are around 49 inches tall. By 11 years however, they are on average 58 inches tall and are approximately 80 pounds (western world standards). Children's bones broaden and lengthen dramatically in general and during this age band, children tend to grow 2-3 inches taller each year. Growth spurts are linked to puberty which begins about a year earlier for girls than boys. Boys are slightly bigger (on average) than girls until about age 10-11 at which time girls rapidly develop. Boys are at least a year later than girls during puberty and their bodies remain less developed than girls until about 12-13 years old.

During this time period communication tools such as tablets, mobile phones, computers and other electronics are used with more frequency and depth. Complex fine motor skills make this more possible. Related to fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination is typically well developed by the age of 9 to 10 years old. Children in this age group can write rapidly.

Gross motor skills become well developed by middle to late childhood. Children demonstrate an increase in coordination in their ability to run, climb, kick and throw. Physical and athletic ability becomes significant in that children demonstrate their growing competencies through physical achievements. There is a variation in gross motor coordination during this period. Those who do not have well-developed skills are at risk of peer rejection. There are also are periods of uneven development in that different parts of the body grow at different rates during this time, causing temporary awkwardness.

What can be expected from a normally developing 8-12 year old? Look for the following:

8 yrs plus- Children are developing their fine motor skills
They are able to turn, spin and jump altogether rather than them be separate motions. Children are improving their coordination at this age.

9 yrs - Girls are showing the early signs of puberty. Children are usually experiencing a growth spurt, they are getting taller by growing 2.5 in. and are gaining more weight at about 5-7 lbs in a year.
Children this age are losing about four baby teeth a year

10 yrs plus - Girls' hips begin to widen and they are developing breast buds as a result of early signs of puberty. Agility, speed, coordination and balance improves.

11 yrs plus - Children have lost most of their baby teeth and are braces are very common at this age. Boys are showing their first signs of puberty.
Boys and girls may experience oily skin, increased sweating and hair growth under arms and on genital areas. The voice begins to change, which is more noticeable in boys than in girls. Students this age are again developing more coordination are beginning to be able to help out with household chores, such as dishes and laundry.

12 yrs plus- Children continue to develop into late adolescence. Bodies of 11-12 years olds require at least one hour of a combination of aerobic, muscle strengthening and bone strengthening activity in order to continue to thier physical development.

Feedback to Parents

You may not be an expert in child physical/sensory motor development, but you can sharpen your observation skills. Take notice if there are obvious issues with any of the skills listed. Most normally developing children can demonstrate these skills.

Take notice if there is lack of hand/eye coordination which would include hand writing ability, any awkward movements when completing gross motor actions (throwing, jumping, kicking). Take note that the child demonstrates good muscle strength and can he/she execute motor planning (body goes in the direction that the child is intending) and the child demonstrates physical balance.

Notice that the child in this age band is beginning to show signs of prepubescence by age 10-11. This includes voice changes for boys, secondary sex development such as breast buds in girls. The child's body is growing taller with limb length increasing as well.

If during your meeting(s) with the child you notice any unusual anomalies, you will want to suggest the caregivers follow-up with one of the following professionals:

  • Pediatrician/ or Family Doctor
  • Developmental Specialist
  • Physical Therapist
  • Occupational TherapistRegistered Play/Expressive Therapist

8 - 12 YRS SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL DEVELOPMENT

 

Children in this age band have moved from learning about how the world works by initially assimilating bits of reality into fantasy to now viewing the world as a place with rules, laws and culture and now having to assimilate themselves into reality. A major change has now begun to take place as the child no longer sees herself as the centre of the world, rather she sees the world as a complex place to sort where she now fits. For this age group, social/emotional development is viewed as the continuation of the emergence of self. Communication and language skills have matured to the point that a sense of self and healthy relationships are beginning to solidify. This leads to the child finding her place in the community. Community, school and friends become central during middle to late childhood. Because the focus on "others" increases so dramatically; this stage of social/emotional development becomes very complex. There are many values, rules and routines to learn. Parents remain very important, but peers begin to take on a very important role.

Social perspective taking becomes increasingly sophisticated and during this stage of development children learn that there are many ways to understand a situation. Children also begin to learn about how others see them. By the time a child is 10-12 years old, she can hold opposing or different view points at the same time. Harter (1998) notes that children in this age band begin to understand ambivalent feelings and they view the self and others as having many characteristics. This age group is much better than the 5-7 year olds at reading the feelings, wishes and expectations of others and they also tend to be able to see below the surface of behavior. Until about 8 years of age, children only see others in relation to their behavior and physical characteristics.

Eight to 12 year olds, are beginning to behave in prosocial ways and this is supported by internalization of moral standards and cognitive development. For instance, middle school-aged children are generally able to notice if another child needs help and they may in turn offer help. There is no consistent evidence that girls are more prosocial than boys, but there is some evidence that girls identify with caregiving roles and tend to be more attuned to the feelings of others (McHale et al., 2003).

At this stage of development, friendships are based on mutual liking, sharing and gender. The social complexity is greater as the younger child would be more focused on liking concrete activities (shared interests) while the older school-aged child will include common values, commitment, loyalty, mutual support and responsibility (Rubin, Bukowski, & Parker, 1998). Friends serve the purposes of a sense of identification and comparison with someone who is not an adult. This more appropriate comparison increases self-acceptance and an awareness that the child does not have to be perfect. Children learn how to solve conflicts, and they tend to be motivated to preserve the relationship over "winning" a conflict. Children who have fewer friends lessens opportunities to develop higher lever social skills. Many things may interfere with social development through peer contact such as adverse family functioning, shy, withdrawn or aggressive approaches or children who are aggressive.

Social reputation is very important to this age group as the issue of status is a valued. Self-esteem is gained by being sought after by the "right" peers. Group influence is also central and influence is related to gender, sex roles, ethnic/racical identification, social status and common interests. Influence by the group norm is reasonably high during this stage of development. It is here that it becomes clear which children have internalized prosocial values in order to refrain from engaging in antisocial behavior.

Erikson (1950, 1959, 1968) developed a theory that identifies eight stages in which a healthy developing person passes through from infancy to late adulthood. It is thought that all stages are present at birth but only begin to unfold with one's ecological and cultural upbringing. At each stage, the person confronts and hopefully masters new challenges. Each stage builds on the successful completion of the earlier one. It is theorized that if one does not meet the challenge of a stage in a positive way, that stage will reappear later as a social-emotional problem. If mastery of a stage does not occur, one can move to the next stage and be modified later.

Each stage is characterized by a psychosocial crisis of two conflicting forces. If an individual does indeed successfully reconcile these forces (favoring the first mentioned attribute in the crisis), he or she emerges from the stage with, for example, more trust than mistrust. If this occurs, he or she carries the virtue of the ability to approach relationships and life in a trusting manner into the remaining life stages.

ERIKSON'S STAGES:

Birth - 18 months: Trust vs. Mistrust
18 months - 3 years: Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt
3- 5 years: Initiative vs. Guilt
6 through teens: Industry vs. Inferiority
Teens - 20's: Identity vs. Role Confusion
20's- 40's: Intimacy vs. Isolation
40's - 60's: Generativity vs. Stagnation
60's - beyond Ego Integrity vs. Despair

Children from 8-12 years of age will primarily fall into Industry vs. Inferiority stage.

Industry versus inferiority is the fourth stage of Erik Erikson's theory of psychosocial development. This stage occurs during childhood between the ages of five and twelve.

Cognitively, children are beginning to learn to read and write and are generally more independent. Teachers begin to take an important role in the child’s life as they teach the child specific skills.

The child’s peer group gains greater significance and becomes a major source of the child’s self esteem. The child through demonstrating specific competencies gains approval. Children learn they are valued by society, and begin to develop a sense of pride in their accomplishments. Encouragement and reinforcement of initiatives increases the desire for a child to be more industrious. Children also gain in confidence related to their abilities which motivates them to reach various goals.

If taking initiative is not encouraged, or if it is restricted by caregivers or teachers, the child begins to feel inferior, doubting his abilities. This negative frame may cause the child not to reach his or her potential.

If the child cannot develop the specific skill he/she feels society is demanding (e.g., being athletic; reaching an academic standard) then he/she may develop a sense of inferiority. Not all failure leads to inferiority. A balance between competence and modesty is important to this stage of development. Success in this stage will lead to the virtue of competence and industry.

A child's temperament (Thomas and Chess, 1977) contributes to the child's behavioral style. it is the characteristic way a child reacts to her environment. it is the "how" of behavior vs. the "what" or the "why". Temperament can influence social/emotional development. Temperament is not age-related and therefore must be viewed as an overall contributor to understanding each child. (See temperament Scale).

What can be expected from a normally developing 8-12 year old? Look for the following:

  • Child makes positive statements about being able to make decisions about basic things - likes and dislikes, positive statements about leading various actions or activities
  • Positive statements are made about child having impact on family members and friends
  • Child can hold two opposing views about a friend, family member (10 yrs and up)
  • Child makes comments about social group and status he/she has in the group... "I hang out with the cool kids"
  • Positive statements about self-competencies
  • Statements about being valued by others - caregivers, teachers, friends
  • Statements about valuing others
  • Statements that suggest the child is encouraged by others
  • Statements are made related to pride to do with accomplishments
  • Statements related to reinforcement of taking initiative and child indicates a desire to "do more" "try more things" etc.

Feedback to Parents

You may not be an expert in social-emotional development, but you can sharpen your observation skills.

You may want to provide feedback to a parent if the child is particularly negatively self-representing.

If the child has a temperament profile that requires more support to meet the positive outcomes of Erikson's stages of social-emotional development, caregivers may need to modify their behaviors to better support, encourage and understand their child.

You may want to refer to:

  • Parent counselor
  • Registered Adolescent Counselling
  • Group Counselling

8 - 12 YRS MORAL DEVELOPMENT

 

Morality is related to the capacity to take responsibility for one's own actions. Moral reasoning develops from infancy continuing to adulthood. It begins with a concrete here and now thinking and moves to abstract perspective taking. The development of abstract thinking leads the way to making decisions for the greater good (McGrath and Brown, 2008). Early childhood is controlled by reinforcement, punishment, direct instruction and modeling. These influences are provided by significant others and are at first experienced as an external standard that a child follows. As time goes on, children begin to internalize rules of behavior and their behavior comes under personal control through evaluations of self-reactions.

During middle to late childhood, taking personal responsibility for one's actions increases. The ability to distinguish the truth from a lie is part of responsibility taking and evolves from the child's ability to anticipate consequences. From the ages of 10-12 years, children understand that lying, for instance, may be for the greater good. Children will, for instance lie to protect someone or lie to join with another person. Lying also serves to maintain a positive view of self and to take credit for something by blaming others. Another form of maintaining a positive view of self in this stage of development is to leave out any negative self actions or behaviors. If asked by an authority figure, the child may take some responsibility but he will have a detailed rationale. Additionally, if children are judging the seriousness of a lie, at this stage their evaluation will include betrayal of trust. All lies are now not the same and some are told to spare others' feelings. Lying is now considered wrong based more on a betrayal of trust and not because you get punished for it by adults. Saying something by "mistake" or someone having a difference of opinion is also now considered, and it does not mean that someone is telling a lie.

During late childhood, autonomous morality may begin. This is where children start to understand that there is no absolute right or wrong and that morality can depend on intentions and not simply consequences. By the age of 9-10, Piaget thought that children's understanding of moral issues began to reorganize as they were far less egocentric and could see things from other people's point of view. Children begin to make more independent judgments as they realize that people make rules and they can change them. At the same time, the older the child, the more that child knows that rules are needed in games for instance, so that things can be fair and less conflict oriented. They also know that you can modify rules so to accommodate fewer people in a game.

In late childhood children consider others' motives and not just consequences when judging a situation. If you do something wrong, but for the right reason, for instance, a person may not be punished. The same type of moral reasoning applies when evaluating a malicious act that did not end up harming anyone. This latter act is likely to deserve a punishment. Punishment is now viewed as helping another understand the harm he caused rather than to make the person "suffer". Subjective facts and an internal sense of responsibility comes on-line.

Related to justice, children in middle to late childhood begin to realize that things are not always fair and sometimes innocent people are punished. They also realize that punishments should "fit the crime". They no longer agree with group or collective punishment as this means that some innocent parties suffer for others who have engaged in the wrong-doing.

A major change begins as a result of the child’s general cognitive development evolving from egocetrism to decentrism and to the growing importance of the peer group. This includes the focus being on other children and the heightened importance of negotiation and compromise.

Lawrence Kohlberg expanded on the earlier work of cognitive theorist Jean Piaget to explain the moral development of children. Kohlberg believed that moral development, like cognitive development, follows a series of stages. He used the idea of moral dilemmas—stories that present conflicting ideas about two moral values—to teach 10 to 16 year-old boys about morality and values. The best known moral dilemma created by Kohlberg is the "Heinz" dilemma, which discusses the idea of obeying the law versus saving a life. Kohlberg emphasized that it is the way an individual reasons about a dilemma that determines positive moral development. Kohlberg identified 3 levels of morality each containing two stages, which provide the basis for moral development in various contexts.

Each level of morality contains two stages, which provide the basis for moral development in various contexts. The pre-conventional level one of moral reasoning is especially common in children, although adults can also exhibit this level of reasoning. Reasoners at this level judge the morality of an action by its direct consequences.

Children 8-12 are typically in Level 2 Conventional Morality (stages 3 and stage 4), and Level 3 (stage 5 ) of moral development according to Kohlberg's stage model. These levels and stages of moral development are as follows:

Level 2: CONVENTIONAL MORALITY

By age 7 some children move towards the next level of moral development (Conventional Morality, Stage 3). Throughout Conventional Morality , a child's sense of morality is tied to personal and societal relationships. Children continue to accept the rules of authority figures, but this is now due to their belief that this is necessary to ensure positive relationships and societal order. Adherence to rules and conventions is somewhat rigid during these stages, and a rule's appropriateness or fairness is seldom questioned.

Stage 3: Good Boy, Nice Girl Orientation
In stage 3, children want the approval of others and act in ways to avoid disapproval. Emphasis is placed on good behavior and people being "nice" to others. Children want to be liked and thought well of and they now understand that being "good" results in positive responding by caregivers and others. "People like me when I am good". Conforming to rules for one's social role is not yet fully understood at this stage.

Stage 4: Maintaining Social Order
In stage 4, the focus is on obeying laws and social conventions because these things ensure the society can function. Once in stage 4 of moral development, behavior is no longer based on individual approval, rather the idea is that there are central ideals that prescribe what is right and wrong. There is an obligation to uphold laws and rules. Most members of society remain at stage 4 development where morality is still dictated from outside forces. Children at this stage know about rules and laws and they have a more elaborate awareness about why social order is necessary.

Level 3: POSTCONVENTIONAL MORALITY

The postconventional level is also known as the principled level of moral development. At this level, there is a growing awareness that an individual's perspective and principles may take precedence over societies views and rules. Laws are not seen as rigid, rather they are like social contracts that can be changed when it is necessary to meet the greatest good for the greatest number of people. In the Postconventional level, individuals live by their own ethical principles related to life, liberty and justice.

Stage 5: Social Contract and Individual Rights

At this stage, an individual sees others as holding different opinions, rights and values and there is an view that perspectives should be mutually respected as unique
People at this stage of development still believe in rules, but are more interested in majority decision-making. Rules that don't serve the greatest good for the greatest number of people need to be changed. Post-conventional moralists live by their own ethical principles including basic human rights as life, liberty, and justice. Ideally rules can maintain the general social order and protect human rights and when they do not, the rules are questioned. Theoretically, democratic government follows stage 5 reasoning. Some theorists theorize that many people never reach the postconventional level of abstract moral reasoning.

What can be expected from a normally developing 8-12 year old? Look for the following:

  • Behaviors related to doing things to please others
  • Lying to protect someone else or to align with someone
  • Behavior related to following rules because they help to make the game or action "fair"
  • Comments that suggest that the child knows things are not always fair
  • Child will not be "ok" with group punishment, rather individuals should be consequenced
  • Child comments on what is right and wrong but knows that sometimes you have to negotiate or compromise
  • The child knows people (friends / parents) have different views to the child and that is ok
  • Child holds the view that lying may be ok if it is about loyalty and trust
  • Child notes the consequence must fit the crime
  • The child is aware that punishments are not about suffering, but about learning not to do something that way again
  • Child can tell you what he/she did wrong and can provide rationale for why
  • Child may demonstrate deep beliefs about something related to justice for instance... (animal cruelty and becoming a vegetarian for instance)

Feedback to Parents

You may not be an expert in moral development, but you can sharpen your observation skills.

Help caregivers know that children in the 8-12 age band have now begun to view the world from the "other" point of view vs. the egocentric point of view. Social relationships (particularly with peers) have become very important. This aged Child understands that there are social rules and laws. He is aware that rules can be changed if they are unfair to a bigger group of children, but he also knows that rules are important. Consequences / punishments are now viewed as necessary for learning vs. suffering.

Parents need to understand that they impact moral decision-making and moral development. Higher levels of development come from role modeling. Families in high conflict will interrupt moral development. For example, the parent(s) can place pressure on a child to lie or to say things to others that the child does not feel or believe. The child will follow this expectation out of loyalty and relationship rather than out of honesty.

This time of moral development spans at least 3 of Kohlberg's stages. Some twelve year olds will have a very advanced sense of moral development and appear more adult-like in his/her reasoning.

If there are obvious interruptions and the child in this age group is negatively influenced you may want to refer the child to:

  • Registered Child and family counselor
  • Registered Child psychotherapist and play/expressive therapist

Kohlberg's Stages

8 - 12 YRS COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT & LANGUAGE

 

By middle childhood, egocentric thinking has been replaced by logical thinking. During this age band, there is a shift from physically manipulating objects to solve problems to being able to manipulate objects by way of perception mentally. This shift from action to thought involves and increase in basic reasoning processes. Abstract thought is beginning to develop but it is not on-line in the same way as it is for adolescents. The middle to late school-aged child still needs to have objects in front of them or available to them to engage in reasoning skills, whereas adolescents can mentalize without objects and they can engage in hypothetical thinking. The hallmark of this developmental stage is the idea of reversibility which Piaget termed Concrete Operations. This means that the child can now think back over what she has perceived. She can look at experiments involving mass and volume and look back at the steps to identify that although the containers water has been poured into may be differently shaped, the same volume of water may have been used (conservation experiment). This marks an increase in flexible thinking and the ability to look at reality from multiple perspectives using multiple strategies (Siegler, 1996).

The prefrontal cortex begins to mature and by the age of 7 and perspective-taking begins. At this point forward, decentration has replaced egocentrism. To think logically, the distinction between subjectivity and objectivity must take place. Piaget (1952b) noted that the movement from egocentricism marks the beginning of higher level cognitive thinking and allows for a clearer understanding of causality. It is the beginning of reasoning with analysis. Magical thinking decreases and this aged child will not typically assign himself as being the sole cause of something happening such as a family member dying or parents separating etc., rather, more complex reasoning will take place making possible greater, more realistic explanations.

Although Piaget's stages of cognitive development are well-known, so too is the idea that by this stage, children may be able to demonstrate higher level cognitive skills in certain areas based others demonstrating things for them by way of scaffolding. This may happen through observing a parent complete something and then the child being asked to reflect and think about what was demonstrated. The parent may then ask the child to try the same action or idea. (Vigotsky)???

Spacial orientation and understanding of space increases for children in this age band. In drawings for instance, children will typically include a ground line. Additionally, human figures are relative in size and depicted more realistically. For instance, adult figures are bigger than child figures, birds are smaller yet and situated in the sky and clouds are clearly placed in the top area of a drawing. Spacial organization increases and becomes more consistent with what the eye actually sees (Case, 1998).

Orientation to time also increases during this time period and it is not until the age of 7 that children begin to understand how a calendar is organized. This ability follows the understanding of sequencing of numbers. It is an important development and as soon as a child is clear about following a calendar, he can begin to plan and think ahead.

Seriation is well underway in this age group. A child can arrange uneven length objects from shortest to longest. This ability in addition to understanding size and weight to objects is the beginning of mathematical understanding (Bisanz & LeFevre, 1990).

Middle school aged children are able to mentally organize objects and make order out of chaos. In this age group a child can manage to organize her room (even if very messy) whereas the younger children cannot accomplish this ordering task on their own. In addition to being about to mentally organize, this age group can now compare complex figures or drawings and identify differences between them. The younger age span cannot explore objects systematically because they cannot move between parts and wholes. By the age of 8, however, categorization and classification skills are more developed and only increase over time.

It is only now that children can more accurately process information that is provided orally. This means that verbal cues are more understood and that language is sufficiently developed which is related to mental representations and symbols. Taking in auditory information, holding it and responding accurately also requires an increase in attentional skills. This is the ability to select, perceive and focus on something and screen out other competing stimuli. Increasing attention spans, selective focusing and systematic planning all take place during this time period.

Children in middle to late childhood demonstrate an increase in memory. Children advance in processing speed and they apply rules for recalling information such as sorting information by time, place and category. As identification of categories increases, so does memory due to having better storage and retrieval strategies. Improved memory helps with intentionality, keeping sequences in mind and following stepwise instructions.

Executive functioning processes in middle to late childhood include the following:

Ability to solve a problem and generate ideas about actions to take
Knowing cognitive strategies to help in problem-solving
Knowing when to activate cognitive rules and strategies to solve problems
Flexible approach to problem-solving
Longer attention span, resisting distractions and control of anxiety
Ability to continuously monitor performance
Trust in ability to think about problems
Awareness of shortcomings in thinking
(Kagan, 1984)

As part of the increase in cognitive development, there is an increase in self-regulation (the ability to act pro-socially). The child in this age band has the ability to appraise various situations and he/she has ever improving capacities for self control. Psychological defenses are becoming more sophisticated (see psychological defenses - centre of diagram) and this assists children to avoid distressing feelings and manage behavior. The development of defenses also helps in the tolerance of pain and allows the child to focus on here and now versus the past. This age group is aware of social norms and they tend towards wanting to fit adult standards. Children can now identify reasons for conformity or following rules using fairness and equality reasoning and they can also reason how rules are necessary to avoid getting hurt.

Piaget (1896-1980) was a researcher who was interested in understanding the development of understanding. His theory has been widely influential and studied over time. Piaget's stages are defined sequentially and qualitatively and therefore it is important to consider the point that the age of the child is less important than the conceptual milestones and their sequences when looking at cognitive development. For those doing actual formal assessments the issues that get in the way of identifying capacities of various aged children are more often related to the child's motivation, attention, compliance, language and/ or expression of anxiety (Garber, 2010). When meeting with children, it is important to consider these factors before saying a child does or does not demonstrate a particular cognitive ability or skill.

According to Piaget, children 7-11 years, are in the Concrete Operations stage of cognitive development. The concrete operational stage is the third stage of Piaget's theory and follows the preoperational stage. During this stage, a child's thought processes become more mature and "adult like". Children start solving problems in a more logical fashion but they can only solve problems that apply to concrete events or objects.

What can be expected from a normally developing 8- 12 year old? In summary, Davies (2004) p. 387, identifies the following for observation purposes:

  • Increase in accurate perception of reality
  • Reversibility - systematic ability to analyze by thinking back over things - inductive vs. deductive logic
  • Improved understanding of cause and effect
  • Decline in magical thinking
  • Decentration which allows child to distinguish between subjective and objective reality
  • Concrete operations: processes of logic and reasoning can be applied to understand immediate reality
  • Developmental spurt related to spacial organization; visual organizational ability; time orientation; distinctions between parts and wholes; seriation; and auditory processing
  • Memory is improved based on increased ability to categorize
  • Increase in executive processes - can now think about problems and increased attention
  • Self-regulation due to increased internal self-talk and appraisal of situations
  • Full common-sense has not yet developed
  • Basic syntax and grammar is established by 7 yrs plus
  • Children 7-8 yrs and older can understand nuances of meaning and more difficult grammatical features such as the passive voice
  • Can put thoughts and feelings into words
  • Can tell an organized story (with a beginning, middle and end)
  • Can understand word play, jokes, figures of speech and metaphor
  • Play is now focused on physical skills and intellectual competence
  • Play is focused on ritualized games with rules and games requiring planning and strategy
  • Fantasy play is where the child displaces feelings and wishes into imaginary scenarios. This is when the child imagines the self in more adult roles and situations
  • Hobbies and collections of things increases

Feedback to Parents

You may not be an expert in cognitive development but you can sharpen your observation skills. Take notice of how the child manages problem-solving and deductive logic. If you observe the child struggling with spacial organization when drawing pictures for instance or being unable to follow oral instructions you may want identify these issues to the caregiver. Additionally, this age band should have a more advanced memory capacity and be far more capable of emotion regulation than the 5-7 year olds. If the child has trouble time orientation or ability sorting from bigger to smaller it may be necessary to discuss this with a caregiver. An absence in some or all of the above may indicate a cognitive delay or delay due to stress or trauma.

Increased stress at an earlier cognitive development stage can impact the Concrete Operations stage of development. Cognitive development is built on the formation of early symbolic representations and the ability to think symbolically and to use words and pictures to represent objects. Scaffolding occurs through purposeful modeling and observations of others. Some children are clearly interrupted by family dysfunction and they struggle with language, basic logic, providing narratives and even understanding jokes or metaphors.

If you notice some difficulties in some or any of the above you may refer a child to one or more of the following professionals/ professional services:

  • Psycho-Educational Assessment
  • Pediatrician
  • Registered Play and or Expressive Therapist

Piaget's Stages

The Wheel: Child Development in Practice

 

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CHILDREN'S DEFENSE MECHANISMS

Why do children and youth and adults need defense mechanisms? As we mature we develop tools to manage stress that would otherwise overwhelm our sensory systems, information intake and emotions. Defenses are like filters that assist us in self-protection which is healthy and adaptive. When there is a need to for higher and higher degrees of self-protection, what begins as an adaptive defense can become intrusive to day-to-day functioning and in some instances, pathological or debilitating. Consider the 4 year-old who has achieved toilet training, verbal skills, and physical skills such as jumping and climbing. This same child begins to be exposed to a high a conflict environment due to parental separation where she is frightened and disoriented by a combination of parent inaccessibility and physical and verbal violence between caregivers. She begins to talk in shorter sentences using baby talk, crawls on the floor from one room to the other and starts to regularly wet her pants. This is indicative of a regressive response. This slip to an earlier stage of development is meant to call into focus the need for increased care and attention. It is not conscious, but it is a calling card to indicate that someone needs to step in to increase care.

Defenses mask capacity. Capacity is the actual or potential ability or level of functioning. It is the maximum one can expect from an individual based on age, development, stage and individual differences. The greater the need to self-protect- the more capacity will be impacted. This is important to understand when meeting with children and youth.

PSYCHOLOGICAL DEFENSE MECHANISMS AS THEY COMMONLY EMERGE IN DEVELOPMENTAL SEQUENCE

DEFENSE MECHANISM DESCRIPTION

Infantile Defenses
Conservation Withdrawal
When signaling (crying, cooing) fails to find relief,
the child shuts down in sleep

Childhood Defenses
Denial
Failure to acknowledge an anxiety-inducing
experience

Distortion
Re-forming of an anxiety-inducing experience
to fit existing beliefs

Regression
Stress-induced abandonment of most current and sophisticated development in favor of earlier levels of functioning

Adolescent Defenses
Fantasy
Retreat into a false world internally (as fantasy) or externally (e.g., video games, fiction, movies)

Passive Aggression
Inaction that covertly expresses rage

Idealization
Attributing to someone unrealistically positive
qualities; failing to recognize someone's
weaknesses or faults

Acting Out
Behavior that expresses a strong emotion
without understanding or acknowledgement
that that feeling exists

Somaticization
Expression of strong emotion indirectly
through bodily (somatic) complaints (e.g., gastric upset, headache)

Projection
Disowning one's own strong emotion and
attributing it instead to someone else

Adult Defenses
Displacement
Redirection of strong feelings from their actual
source to another, less threatening source

Dissociation
Separation of strong emotion from self,
sometimes expressed as "not me" experience

Intellectualization
Acknowledgement of an anxiety-inducing event without emotion

Reaction Formation
Distorting and unacceptable emotion into its opposite (e.g., the thief who becomes a police officer)

Compartmentalization
Distancing oneself from threatening emotions by locking associated events into accessible but separate experiences

Rationalization
Imposing reason so as to excuse or make sense out of otherwise unacceptable and threatening emotion

Garbor, 2010 p. 98

13 - 18 YRS COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT & LANGUAGE

 

Early adolescence begins around the age of 12 and progresses onward. It coincides with puberty. It is marked by a cognitive stage that Piaget termed Formal Operations. This stage is marked by the ability to think abstractly and to consider hypothetical situations and their potential outcomes. This development of logic is different from the middle to late childhood development as it is no longer a trial and error approach, rather it is a systematic testing of opinions and use of hypothetical deductive reasoning. It is a known as a problem-solving phase. It is during this stage of development that the logical proofs and values are understood. It is possible to think about the future and the youth can imagine what he can "be" or "become".

Youth in this age band will most likely answer "if you had 3 wishes, what would they be"? differently to the previous age group. Now the answer would be more global and potentially socially bound. Middle and younger school aged children would answer the wishes question with here-and-now answers based on things they want.

Although decentrism has occurred, egocentrism emerges in relation to social matters and the ways in which adolescents think about themselves. There is a heightened self-focus that tends to increase self-consciousness. This age group thinks about themselves as unique and invincible.

The formal operational thinker has the ability to consider many different solutions to a problem before acting. This greatly increases efficiency, because the individual can avoid potentially unsuccessful attempts at solving a problem. Of consideration is past experiences, present demands and future consequences.

What About Adolescent Brain Development?

It turns out that although it was once thought that the brain entered into a state of maturity by adolescence, this is not true. The brain does not resemble an adult brain until a young person is in his early 20's. This is important when addressing the cognitive functioning of the adolescent. It was thought that the volume of grey matter in the cortex (where processes of thought and memory are based) was the highest in early childhood and gradually decreased with age. Brain scans show that in fact, the grey matter actually increases (and is the highest during early adolescence) and then decreases upon maturation. This pruning process is important to increase the efficiency of the brain as those synapses that are exercised are strengthened and stay while those not used disappear. During the first month of life, a child has more synapses than an adult brain.

Different parts of the cortex also mature at different rates. The areas involved in processing information from the senses and controlling behavior mature first. The top-down brain processes that control impulses and planning ahead are among the last to mature. Connections between different parts of the brain increase throughout childhood into adulthood. The brain circuitry involved in emotional responses changes during adolescence as discovered through functional brain imagery. There is some evidence that adolescent brains respond in more heightened ways than do the brains of younger children and adults to emotionally laden images. Brain circuitry continues to change during the teen years. Age-related contributors to this include reproductive hormones. The brain is activated through experience, urgency and intensity of emotional reactions. Additionally, Adolescents and adults engage different parts of the brain related to tests requiring calculation and impulse control and emotional content.

Overall, there is still much to learn about the adolescent brain. Although the adolescent has developed emotional responses similar to the adult the main difference is impulse control. There is a very high capacity for learning and exploration... and limit-testing in adolescents. Adult brains are better wired to notice errors in decision-making. A teenager's brain is well-developed in the area of pleasure-seeking and reward. Of interest is imaging studies that compared brain activity when the subject received a small, medium or large reward, teenagers exhibited exaggerated responses to medium and large rewards compared to children and adults (Powell). The still forming prefrontal cortex in combination with a strong desire for reward helps to explain stereotypical teenage behavior.

What can be expected from a normally developing 13-18 year old? In summary, the following items are offered for observation purposes:

  • Adolescents demonstrate new thinking skills - there is duality of adolescent competence - more decision-making skills with high emotionality
  • Intense emotions - changes in the limbic system - new experiences with rage, fear and aggression, excitement and sexual attraction
  • Peer pleasure - increased abstract thinking increases social anxiety
  • Measuring risk - need for higher doses of risk to feel same as adults do
  • Center of the universe mentality - hormone changes increase receptors for oxytocin causing increase in sensitivity and self-conscousness. "Grey" thinking is still developing
  • Some poor or impulsive decision-making
  • Driven by rewards
  • Self-centred focus

Feedback to Parents

You may not be an expert in cognitive development but you can sharpen your observation skills. Take notice of how the adolescent manages problem-solving and risk-taking behavior. You may notice a teenager being more disorganized and potentially unreliable than a younger sibling. The developing brain at this time can create inconsistent responding. Emotionality mixed with a predicted reward can skew what an adolescent tells you about how he/she feels.

Any unusual risk-taking related to drugs or alcohol can have a very negative impact on the adolescent's developing brain. You may want to share this with a parent(s).

You may also notice lags in development overall that relate to the earlier developmental stage.

If you notice some difficulties in some or any of the above you may refer a child to one or more of the following professionals/ professional services:

  • Psycho-Educational Assessment
  • Doctor referral
  • Registered Adolescent Therapist

Piaget's Stages

13 - 18 YRS MORAL DEVELOPMENT

 

Morality is related to the capacity to take responsibility for one's own actions. Moral reasoning develops from infancy continuing to adulthood. It begins with a concrete here and now thinking and moves to abstract perspective taking. The development of abstract thinking leads the way to making decisions for the greater good (McGrath and Brown, 2008). Early childhood is controlled by reinforcement, punishment, direct instruction and modeling. These influences are provided by significant others and are at first experienced as an external standard that a child follows. As time goes on, children begin to internalize rules of behavior and their behavior comes under personal control through evaluations of self-reactions.

During middle to late childhood, taking personal responsibility for one's actions increases. The ability to distinguish the truth from a lie is part of responsibility taking and evolves from the child's ability to anticipate consequences. From the ages of 10-12 years, children understand that lying, for instance, may be for the greater good. Children will, for instance lie to protect someone or lie to join with another person. Lying also serves to maintain a positive view of self and to take credit for something by blaming others. Another form of maintaining a positive view of self in this stage of development is to leave out any negative self actions or behaviors. If asked by an authority figure, the child may take some responsibility but he will have a detailed rationale. Additionally, if children are judging the seriousness of a lie, at this stage their evaluation will include betrayal of trust. All lies are now not the same and some are told to spare others' feelings. Lying is now considered wrong based more on a betrayal of trust and not because you get punished for it by adults. Saying something by "mistake" or someone having a difference of opinion is also now considered, and it does not mean that someone is telling a lie.

During adolescence the development of morality continues and builds on late childhood learning. It is during adolescence that moral decisions are made on a daily basis as prior to this, family, culture and religion influence decision-making. It is not that these influences stop, it is that there is a greater draw on internalized values and beliefs for this age group. Adolescents are become more vulnerable as they begin to establish their autonomy and at the same time rely on peers. Peer pressure exerts a powerful influence. Adolescents can now think in abstract terms. They are more aware that rules are "created" by people and therefore they begin to question authority (parents, schools, government).

By late adolescence most teens have begun to establish their own identities and belief systems. This is a calming period resulting in less rebellious behavior. Youth in this age group can become very passionate about their moral convictions and they may become involved with demonstrations and protests to advance their views or principles. They may also volunteer their time to causes or activities.

Interruptions to higher levels of moral development can include having been traumatized or abused or potentially witnessing abuse (domestic violence or high conflict parents). Other interruptions can be loss of close friends or family members. The impact of these events can create an unjust or unfair world view. Some youth have been raised by parents who have behaved immorally which also taints their ability to meaningfully engage in relationships with others.

Lying will occur more often in this age band than in the previous age band. Lying serves as a way to increase autonomy. Lying to friends and family members are most lied to due to divergence from family beliefs (Perkins & Turiel, 2007).

As adolescence progresses, youth enter into intimate and romantic relationships. There are many significant decisions that need to be made that have far-reaching implications. There are many role-taking opportunities during adolescence and identity and autonomy are shaped by moral decision-making related to these roles.

Most adolescents hover back and forth between Level 2 Conventional Morality (Stage 4) and Level 3 Postconventional Morality (Stage 5). Others are still developing and demonstrate an earlier Conventional morality (stage 3 - see 8-12 year olds).

Level 2: CONVENTIONAL MORALITY

By age 7 some children move towards the next level of moral development (Conventional Morality, Stage 3). Throughout Conventional Morality, a child's sense of morality is tied to personal and societal relationships. Children continue to accept the rules of authority figures, but this is now due to their belief that this is necessary to ensure positive relationships and societal order. Adherence to rules and conventions is somewhat rigid during these stages, and a rule's appropriateness or fairness is seldom questioned.

Stage 4: Maintaining Social Order

In stage 4, the focus is on obeying laws and social conventions because these things ensure the society can function. Once in stage 4 of moral development, behavior is no longer based on individual approval, rather the idea is that there are central ideals that prescribe what is right and wrong. There is an obligation to uphold laws and rules. Most members of society remain at stage 4 development where morality is still dictated from outside forces. Children at this stage know about rules and laws and they have a more elaborate awareness about why social order is necessary.

Level 3: POSTCONVENTIONAL MORALITY

The postconventional level is also known as the principled level of moral development. At this level, there is a growing awareness that an individual's perspective and principles may take precedence over societies views and rules. Laws are not seen as rigid, rather they are like social contracts that can be changed when it is necessary to meet the greatest good for the greatest number of people. In the Postconventional level, individuals live by their own ethical principles related to life, liberty and justice.

Stage 5: Social Contract and Individual Rights

At this stage, an individual sees others as holding different opinions, rights and values and there is an view that perspectives should be mutually respected as unique
People at this stage of development still believe in rules, but are more interested in majority decision-making. Rules that don't serve the greatest good for the greatest number of people need to be changed. Post-conventional moralists live by their own ethical principles including basic human rights as life, liberty, and justice. Ideally rules can maintain the general social order and protect human rights and when they do not, the rules are questioned. Theoretically, democratic government follows stage 5 reasoning. Some theorists theorize that many people never reach the postconventional level of abstract moral reasoning.

What can be expected from a normally developing 13-18 year old? Look for the following:

  • Strong convictions based on personal beliefs
  • Some youth will be social order focused
  • Rebellious challenging of authority figures
  • Experimenting with new rules designed by self (and maybe peers)
  • Following peer beliefs
  • Inconsistently following rules made by others
  • Making lifestyle choices (vegetarianism) based on values and beliefs
  • Incorporating values and rules and beliefs from earlier influences such as parents or religious beliefs
  • Increase understanding of human rights
  • Potentially following values not held by family of origin
  • Inconsistent reporting of beliefs or values
  • Pro-social behavior becomes more consistent and difficult dilemmas such as reporting a friend for theft are moral challenges youth face
  • Moral decision-making will include the good of the group over the good of the individual
  • Loyalty and trust lead moral decision-making and in particular the choice to lie about something
  • Adolescents will lie more often to friends and parents than the previous age group. Lying assists in the development of autonomy

Feedback to Parents

You may not be an expert in moral development, but you can sharpen your observation skills.

Help caregivers know that youth in the 13-18 age band are now well on their way to having their own internalized beliefs and values about the world. They are still likely to follow most social rules, but these will be internalized and they no longer need as much external assistance to act prosocially.

Youth 13-18 years of age will challenge authority because they are not only organizing their own belief systems, but they become very aware of the fact that rules and procedures and laws were "made" by people. This being said, rules can then be changed or modified. Youth in this age group are now aware that consequences are related to learning and not suffering.

Youth are in a period of construction and deconstruction of moral development. They use previous building blocks learned in earlier stages to define their internal models for moral decision-making. They challenge authority and parent moral models in order to establish their own. They may break some rules and follow others. They face an increase in socially regulated actions such as drinking, driving, smoking, sex and drug use. They are both influenced and influence others in these actions.

This time of moral development spans conventional and potentially the beginning of postconventional stages of morality.

If there are obvious interruptions and the youth in this age group is negatively influenced you may want to refer the youth to:

  • Community youth group
  • Youth worker
  • Youth and family counselor
  • Registered Adolescent Therapist

Kohlberg's Stages

13-18 YRS SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL DEVELOPMENT

 

Social and emotional maturity are interconnected. The primary goal for adolescence is the establishment of autonomy. The challenge for the teen is that he must move away (take distance) from his family in order to gain independence. This time period is turbulent and separation-individuation tasks are complicated. Parents often struggle to let go of their teens and teens both push parents away and pull them close; demonstrating ambivalent behavior. This is often a time of conflict between adolescents and family members. The larger task is to balance emotional relatedness with autonomy. Some families deal with this systemic change by accommodation and others by entering into power struggles that only increase conflict. This can be a time of rage and anxiety and frustration for the family system.

During the ages of 13-18 years of age emotional maturity increases and with this comes an increase in vulnerability because greater intimacy is possible. increased trust amongst peers is necessary as teens tend to turn to friends over family members to gain support and proximity when they are upset, afraid, or worried. Reliance on friends marks the beginning of autonomy. Teens will change their speech, dress, behavior, and activities in order to look and act like their peers. This is related to the need for general acceptance and it contributes to a sense of security. Because of the reliance on peers, they become highly influential - both positively and negatively. Advanced cognitive development assists in encouraging wise decisions and assisting each other to avoid harm and act prosocially. Parents often worry about negative influencing but forget about the positive influence that is possible. Teens will align with others that are "like" them and spend time with those that share common interests, activities and culture. If an adolescent is attracted to someone dissimilar to him/her, it may be related to experimentation which is important related to identity formation.

During this developmental phase, it is important for teens to belong to a social group. Qualitatively, belonging looks different to the group focus of the 8-12 year olds. For adolescents, group cohesion and support creates a sense of security and safety. It is important to feel that your friends are loyal during this time period as teens are transferring some of their emotional reliance from their parents on to their friends. They are creating a social support system. The downside of friendship reliance is the fact that sometimes cliques form, some friends are left out, rejected
or labeled. Power issues emerge in peer groups and this can result in conflict between groups or within groups. Power issues can be related to physical, social, financial or cognitive differences. Bullying can emerge due to disparities and power imbalances.

Generally, the number of close friendships decline (acquaintances increase) but the ones that continue are trustworthy and intimate. During late adolescence, peers tend to replicate what appears to be a second family that provides significant emotional support. This is more apparent if the youth comes from a conflict ridden family or if he/she does not live with his/her family based on school etc.

Erikson (1950, 1959, 1968) developed a theory that identifies eight stages in which a healthy developing person passes through from infancy to late adulthood. It is thought that all stages are present at birth but only begin to unfold with one's ecological and cultural upbringing. At each stage, the person confronts and hopefully masters new challenges. Each stage builds on the successful completion of the earlier one. It is theorized that if one does not meet the challenge of a stage in a positive way, that stage will reappear later as a social-emotional problem. If mastery of a stage does not occur, one can move to the next stage and be modified later.

Each stage is characterized by a psychosocial crisis of two conflicting forces. If an individual does indeed successfully reconcile these forces (favoring the first mentioned attribute in the crisis), he or she emerges from the stage with, for example, more trust than mistrust. If this occurs, he or she carries the virtue of the ability to approach relationships and life in a trusting manner into the remaining life stages.

ERIKSON'S STAGES:

Birth - 18 months: Trust vs. Mistrust
18 months - 3 years: Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt
3- 5 years: Initiative vs. Guilt
6 through teens: Industry vs. Inferiority
Teens - 20's: Identity vs. Role Confusion
20's- 40's: Intimacy vs. Isolation
40's - 60's: Generativity vs. Stagnation
60's - beyond Ego Integrity vs. Despair

Youth from 13-18 years of age in this model are in the stage of Identity vs. Role Confusion.

The identity stage of development is unique because it is a synthesis of the earlier stages and a gateway to the following stages. It is the bridge between childhood and adulthood. It is a time of great physical and emotional change as it includes the ability to understand one's own intentions and the intentions of others including an increased awareness related to the role he/she will serve in society. Identity formation can occur over a longer age span as it takes time to gain the skills needed to perform adult tasks. Often, identity development continues until the end of the twenties as this includes identity in occupation, gender roles, politics, and, in some cultures, religion.

The adolescent is now concerned about inner and outer continuity (internal meanings and outer appearances). There are individual stages within this age band, as 13-year-olds are dealing with the emotional and physical changes that accompany puberty. This is accompanied by lack of certainty, moodiness, sensitivity, and self-consciousness. It is a critical period for fitting in with peers.

By 14 years, the adolescent has become more familiar with puberty and its impact. There will be fewer mood swings at this time and this age is seeking more freedom and privileges from parents; sometimes more than they can handle. This age no longer looks or acts as child-like as 13 year olds. This is the time of finding something special or important to which to apply their capabilities. This is a time of finding what one is really good at and self-esteem follows when this is accomplished.

Fifteen-year-olds begin to really assert independence. They tend to push parents to allow them to to do more and more on their own, and usually, they don't want to have to ask permission to do it. This can be a trying time as limits are pushed beyond acceptance or ability to manage those limits. This is a common age to think about living on your own or leaving home. Although living independently is not yet possible, it is the beginning of imagining being separate. This can be a time of increased privacy as this aged teen may not tell you about his day or share some things about what is happening with his peer group. This is a time of increased experimentation.

Socially, 16 year olds are now more aware of who they are and what they are capable of doing or being. It is a time when adolescents appear to "know everything" and providing feedback is nearly impossible, or at least met with resistance. Independent life skills are important to gain during this year. Responsibilities increase as it is the time a person can now get a driver's license and a part-time job. It is a leap from the testing 15 year old, because romantic relationships are also more prevalent and sexual and emotional relationships become more complex. Strong peer-related attachments are formed and the future becomes important.

By 17 years, adolescents have stronger, more consistent individual relationships and relationship groups. This aged teen is future focused and less conflict oriented with parents. This age group tends to act independently with more responsibility. There are fewer mood swings

Seventeen-year-old teens are more in-control of their moods and emotions than younger teens. They form stronger relationships with friends. No more flitting back and forth between cliques. They begin to see their future and can feel both excited and apprehensive about it. The 17-year-old teen has less conflict with parents but will still push for more independence. They will act independently. Parents will see a difference in maturity at this age, as 17-year-old teens tend to take more responsibility for themselves. There are still emotional ups and downs, but life skills continue to develop as they face difficult people and situations in work place environments and have to manage their emotions through trial and error experiences.

By late adolescence, the 18-year-old is attempting to understand where he/she fits in the world. This is an age of excitement and trepidation. This is the year the youth becomes a legal adult in some parts of the world. Of significance is the movement from highschool to post-secondary school or to the workplace. All of the independence skills accumulated to this point are now called on. Increased cooperation and understanding of others is typically on-line. A future view of partnering with someone sexually is also part of the focus as this age group continues to experiment in this domain.

Maturity

What constitutes "maturity"? Garber (2010) points out that theory and research in this area does not present maturity as an end state of being. He reviewed an early account of maturity operationalized by Strang (1953). Strang identified seven useful variables related to maturity for consideration.

  • Ability to feel with others; to see things from their point of view
  • To be objective towards oneself (recognition and acceptance of one's own emotions as natural and ability to project hypotheses about one's behavior)
  • Ability to select suitable worthwhile, long-term goals and to organize one's thinking and acting around these goals
  • Role flexibility: Ability to make adjustments to situations
  • Ability to meet unexpected stresses and disappointments without emotional/physical collapse
  • Ability to give and receive affection
  • Ability to form opinions on sound reasoning and defend the opinion (but also to accept compromise)

The above list is more inclusive than the idea that autonomy and independent thinking is enough to indicate maturity. In family law, it is typical to use arbitrary markers such as a child is mature enough to provide specific decision-making input at the age of 12.

What can be expected from a normally developing 13-18 year old? Look for the following:

  • Youth begins to focus on friends and friendship groups
  • Youth challenges spending time with family and begins to reject this in favor of spending time with friends
  • Less sharing of intimate details with parents and an increase of sharing with friends
  • Personal identity begins with an internalized sense of likes and dislikes
  • Intimate romantic and sexual relationships begin
  • New roles are tested (jobs, relationships, social groups)
  • Risk of negative influence increases (early adolescence)
  • Push away and pull towards parent figures (ambivalence)
  • Turbulence related to mood and hormonal changes impacting relationships and problem-solving
  • Late adolescence increase in independence and forward future thinking
  • Increase in life skills (laundry/chores, driving, travel on public transportation independently)

Feedback to Parents

You may not be an expert in social-emotional development, but you can sharpen your observation skills.

If you notice the youth is struggling with peers, or fitting in you will want to provide feedback to a parent. Peers are very important to adolescents and it is through peer contact that the youth forms their identity. The youth may need assistance or encouragement.

If the parent is too lenient or not structured enough you may want to provide information that assists in the support of the development independence. Parents may need help to feel less rejected or powerless during this phase of development.

Some youth become negatively influenced and you may come to know drugs or alcohol and/or sexual behavior is out of control. Bringing this to the attention of the parent will be important. How to assist may require external helpers.

If the youth has a temperament profile that requires more support to meet the positive outcomes of Erikson's stages of social-emotinal development, caregivers may need to modify their behaviors to better support, encourage and understand their child.

You may want to refer to:

  • Parent counselor
  • Adolescent Counselling
  • Group Counselling

13-18 YRS PHYSICAL/SENSORY MOTOR DEVELOPMENT

 

Physical development of the adolescent is marked by puberty which marks the end of childhood and the beginning of sexual maturity. Hormones are responsible for the development of both primary sex characteristics related to reproduction (penis in boys and uterus in females) and secondary sex characteristics (pubic hair in both genders, breast and hip growth for females, and voice change for males). Puberty lasts approximately six to seven years but each young person will have a different on-set and and a different rate of growth. The onset of puberty typically occurs at age 10 or 11 for females and at age 11 or 12 for males; females usually complete puberty by ages 15 to 17, while males usually finish around ages 16 to 18. By the completion of puberty, females tend to attain their individual height, weight, body composition, sex characteristics, and circulatory and respiratory systems. These changes are largely influenced by hormonal activity.

The pituitary gland is responsible for hormonal changes throughout the body in addition to the adrenal, endocrine and sexual glands. Around the age of 12 or 13, most girls today begin menstruating. The onset of menstruation is termed menarche. At this time, females can become pregnant. Increasing levels of the hormone testosterone trigger the onset of puberty in boys around ages 12 to 14. Boys become taller, heavier, and stronger; their voices deepen; their shoulders broaden; hair grows under the arms, on the face, around the genitals, and on other parts of the body; the testes produce sperm; and the penis and other reproductive organs enlarge.

Puberty involves distinctive physiological changes in an individual's height, weight, body composition, sex characteristics, and circulatory and respiratory systems. These changes are largely influenced by hormonal activity.

"The accelerated growth in different body parts happens at different times, but for all adolescents it has a fairly regular sequence. The first places to grow are the extremities (head, hands, and feet), followed by the arms and legs, and later the torso and shoulders. This non-uniform growth is one reason why an adolescent body may seem out of proportion. During puberty, bones become harder and more brittle.

Before puberty, there are nearly no differences between males and females in the distribution of fat and muscle. During puberty, males grow muscle much faster than females, and females experience a higher increase in body fat. The ratio between muscle and fat in post-pubertal males is around 1:3, while for males it is about 5:4. An adolescent's heart and lungs increase in both size and capacity during puberty; these changes contribute to increased strength and tolerance for exercise." Boundless Psychology" (2016)

What can be expected from a normally developing 13-18 year old? Look for the following as outlined by Lucile Packard, Children's Hospital Stanford (2016):

MALES

  • Beginning of puberty occurs between 9.5 to 14 years old
  • First pubertal change: enlargement of the testicles
  • Penis enlargement: begins approximately one year after the testicles begin enlarging
  • Appearance of pubic hair: 13.5 years old
  • Nocturnal emissions (or "wet dreams"): 14 years old
  • Hair under the arms and on the face, voice change, and acne: 15 years old

FEMALES

  • Girls also experience puberty as a sequence of events, but their pubertal changes usually begin before boys of the same age. Each girl is different and may progress through these changes differently. The following are average ages when puberty changes may occur:
  • Beginning of puberty: 8 to 13 years
  • First pubertal change: breast development
  • Pubic hair development: shortly after breast development
  • Hair under the arms: 12 years old
  • Menstrual periods: 10 to 16.5 years old

There are specific stages of development that both boys and girls go through when developing secondary sexual characteristics (the physical characteristics of males and females that are not involved in reproduction such as voice changes, body shape, pubic hair distribution, and facial hair). The following is a brief overview of the changes that occur:

In boys, the initial puberty change is the enlargement of the scrotum and testes. At this point, the penis does not enlarge. Then, as the testes and scrotum continue to enlarge, the penis gets longer. Next, the penis will continue to grow in both size and length.

In girls, the initial puberty change is the development of breast buds, in which the breast and nipple elevate. The areola (dark area of skin that surrounds the nipple of the breast) increases in size at this time. The breasts then continue to enlarge. Eventually, the nipples and the areolas will elevate again, forming another projection on the breasts. At the adult state, only the nipple remains elevated above the rest of the breast tissue.

Pubic hair development is similar for both girls and boys. The initial growth of hair produces long, soft hair that is only in a small area around the genitals. This hair then becomes darker and coarser as it continues to spread. The pubic hair eventually looks like adult hair, but in a smaller area. It may spread to the thighs and, sometimes, up the stomach.

Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford, (2016)

Source: Boundless. “Physical Development in Adolescence.” Boundless Psychology Boundless, 26 May. 2016. Retrieved 29 Dec. 2016 from https://www.boundless.com/psychology/textbooks/boundless-psychology-textbook/human-development-14/adolescence-73/physical-development-in-adolescence-282-12817/

The resulting changes of puberty can have wide‐ranging effects on teenagers' bodies.

Feedback to Parents

You may not be an expert in physical development, but you can sharpen your observation skills. If you notice unusual or very uneven development in the youth you may want to raise this issue with the parent(s). Some youth may be very slow at developing and this may cause some difficulty socially/emotionally for the young person. Anxiety and depression can increase due to physical changes or lack of physical changes.

If you see highly awkward behavior due to physical development, the youth may need some external assistance to increase coordination. The youth may be confused or highly uncertain about his/her emerging sexual self and this may be a reason for referral to counselling. Sexual identity issues emerge along side physical identity.

If during your meeting(s) with the child you notice any unusual anomalies, you will want to suggest the caregivers follow-up with one of the following professionals:

  • Pediatrician/ or Family Doctor
  • Developmental Specialist
  • Physical Therapist
  • Occupational Therapist
  • Registered Adolescent Therapist