As children grow older, there are numerous developmental milestones that they reach, changing the way they interact with peers and problem solve. With each milestone, children further their cognitive understanding of the stimuli around them, and they are better able to think from other people’s perspective and in abstract ways. As children get older, they also are better able to control their impulses in social settings, and their behaviors change with each developmental milestone they hit.
Early School Age Behavior
Children in kindergarten and first grade have not reached the developmental threshold where they can take the perspective of others. Instead, children in this age group, which is usually from 4 to 6 or 7 years old, do not consider consequences before acting on their impulses and have difficulty monitoring their own actions in social situations. In addition, it is difficult for children in this age group to sit still for longer than 15 to 20 minutes, and they will act with apparent impulsiveness during longer lessons or activities.
As children reach 6 or 7 years of age, they enter a stage known as middle childhood, often referred to as the latency stage. Developmental psychologist Erik Erikson states that children in this stage search for a sense of purpose and judge their successes and failures against those of their peers. During this time, children tend to branch out from their parents or caregivers, who no longer are considered absolute authority figures as they were when children were toddlers.
Social Development in Middle Childhood
Children begin to develop a sense of independence in middle childhood, and they are willing to try more things. This involves spending time with new people and developing friendships, often with older children that they depend on to teach them things that they have never done before. Because children rely on their peers so extensively, they tend to judge what is right and wrong based on the response of their friends instead of relying on internal moral judgment, which comes later in development.
Cognitive Development in Middle Childhood
As children grow older, they begin to understand the consequences of their actions and what events led to something occurring. As their memory expands, children are better able to concentrate on one activity and find solutions to reach a goal that they have been working toward. In addition, children begin to understand the law of conservation, in which the mass of a substance stays the same even if it is placed in a different container with a different shape and size.