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Emotional and Social Development in Middle Childhood

Emotional and Social Development in Middle Childhood

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Emotional and Social Development in Middle Childhood

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  1. Emotional and Social Development in Middle Childhood Chapter 10, to page 351

  2. Erikson’s Theory: Industry versus Inferiority • Psychological conflict of middle childhood: industry versus inferiority • Resolved positively when children develop a sense of competence at useful skills and tasks • Shift from make-believe play to realistic accomplishment • In industrialized nations, the beginning of formal schooling marks the transition to middle childhood • School entrance brings the beginning of literacy training, which prepares children for a vast array of specialized careers • In school, children discover their own and others’ unique capacities, learn the value of division of labor, and develop a sense of moral commitment and responsibility • The negative outcome of this stage is inferiority, lack of confidence in the ability to do things well • This sense of inadequacy can develop when family life has not prepared children for school life or when teachers and peers destroy children’s feelings of competence and mastery with negative responses • Erikson’s sense of industry combines several developments of middle childhood • A positive but realistic self-concept, pride in accomplishment, moral responsibility, and cooperative participation with agemates

  3. Self-Understanding • In middle childhood, children become able to describe themselves in terms of psychological traits, to compare their own characteristics with those of their peers, and to speculate about the causes of their strengths and weaknesses • These transformations in self-understanding have a major impact on children’s self-esteem

  4. Self-Concept • During the school years, children refine their self-concept, organizing their observations of behaviors and internal states into general dispositions (major change occurs between ages 8-11) • Ex. 11 year old: “My name is A. I’m a human being. I’m a girl. I’m a truthful person. I’m not pretty. I do so-so at school. I’m a very good cellist. I’m a very good pianist. I’m a little bit tall for my age. I like several boys. I like several girls. I’m old-fashioned. I play tennis. I am a very good swimmer. I try to be helpful. I’m always ready to be friends with anybody. Mostly I’m good, but I lose my temper. I’m not well-liked by some girls and boys. I don’t know if any boys like me or not.” • In middle childhood, children tend to emphasize competencies rather than specific behaviors • Ex. “I’m a very good pianist.” rather than “I play this song well.” • They can clearly describe their personality, including both positive and negative traits, rather than describing themselves in all-or-none ways • Ex. “truthful” but “I lose my temper”

  5. Self-Concept • School-age children often make social comparisons – judgments of their appearance, abilities, and behavior in relation to those of others • Where 4-6 year olds can compare their own performance to that of one peer, older children can compare multiple individuals, including themselves • What accounts for these revisions in self-concept? • Cognitive development affects the changing structure of self • Children are now able to coordinate several aspects of a situation when reasoning about the physical world (ex. Conservation of liquid) • In the social realm, they combine typical experiences and behaviors into psychological dispositions, blend positive and negative characteristics, and compare their own characteristics with those of many other peers

  6. Self-Concept • Another influence on the content of self-concept is feedback from others • Sociologist George Mead proposed that a well-organized psychological self emerges when the child adopts a view of the self that resembles others’ attitudes toward the child • Perspective-taking skills, especially an improved ability to infer what others are thinking, are crucial for the development of a self-concept based on personality traits • As they internalize others’ expectations, children form an ideal self, which they use to evaluate their real self • Children increasingly look to more people beyond the family for information about themselves as they enter a wider range of settings in school and community • As children move into adolescence self-concept is increasingly vested in feedback from close friends • The content of self-concept also varies between cultures and subcultures • Recent research shows that in their self-descriptions, U.S. children list more personal attributes, whereas Chinese children list more attributes involving group membership and relationships

  7. Development of Self-Esteem • Recall that most preschoolers have extremely high self-esteem • But as children enter school and receive much more feedback about how well they perform compared with their peers, self-esteem differentiates and also adjusts to a more realistic level

  8. Hierarchically Structured Self-Esteem • By age 6-7, children have formed at least 4 broad self-esteems – academic, social, and physical/athletic competence, and physical appearance • Within each broad category, are more refined categories that become increasingly distinct with age • Viewing the self in terms of stable dispositions permits school-age children to combine these self-evaluations into a general psychological image of themselves – an overall sense of self-esteem • Self-esteem takes on a hierarchical structure • Perceived physical appearance correlates more strongly with overall self-esteem than any other factor • Emphasis on appearance, in the media and in society, has major implications for young people’s overall satisfaction with themselves

  9. Hierarchy of Self-Esteem (example)

  10. Changes in Level of Self-Esteem • Self-Esteem declines during the 1st few years of elementary school as children evaluate themselves in various areas • Typically, the drop is not great enough to be harmful • Most (but not all) children appraise their characteristics and competencies realistically while maintaining an attitude of self-respect • Then, from 4th grade on, self-esteem rises for the majority of young people, who feel especially good about their peer relationships and athletic capabilities

  11. Influences on Self-Esteem • From middle childhood on, individual differences in self-esteem become more stable • Positive relationships emerge between self-esteem and success at valued activities • Ex. Academic self-esteem predicts how important, useful, and enjoyable children judge school subjects to be, their willingness to try hard, and their achievement • Ex. Children with high social self-esteem are consistently better-liked by their classmates • Ex. Sense of athletic competence is positively associated with investment and performance in sports • However, a profile of low self-esteem in all areas is linked to anxiety, depression, and increasing antisocial behavior

  12. Influences on Self-Esteem: Culture • Cultural forces profoundly affect self-esteem • A strong emphasis on social comparison in school may explain why Chinese and Japanese children, despite higher academic achievement, score lower in self-esteem than North American children • In Asian classrooms, competition is tough and achievement pressure is high • At the same time, because their culture values social harmony, Asian children tend to be reserved about judging themselves positively but generous in their praise of others • Gender-stereotyped expectations also affect self-esteem • In one study, the more 5-8 year old girls talked with friends about the way people look, watched TV shows focusing on physical appearance, and perceived their friends as valuing thinness, the lower their physical self-esteem and overall self-worth were a year later • In academic self-judgments • Girls score higher in language arts self-esteem • Boys score higher in math, science, and physical/athletic self-esteem, even when children of equal skill levels are compared • African American children tend to have slightly higher self-esteem than their Caucasian agemates • Possibly because of warm, extended families and stronger sense of ethnic pride, which most Caucasians lack

  13. Influences on Self-Esteem: Child-Rearing Practices • Children whose parents use an authoritative child-rearing style feel especially good about themselves • Warm, positive parenting lets children know that they are accepted as competent and worthwhile • Firm but appropriate expectations, backed up with explanations, help children evaluate their own behavior against reasonable standards • Controlling parents (those who too often help or make decisions for their child) communicate a sense of inadequacy to their children • Having parents who are repeatedly disapproving and insulting is linked to low self-esteem • Children subjected to controlling parenting need constant reassurance, and many rely heavily on peers to affirm their self-worth (which is a risk factor for adjustment difficulties, including aggression and antisocial behavior)

  14. Influences on Self-Esteem: Child-Rearing Practices • Overindulgent parenting is correlated with unrealistically high self-esteem, which also undermines development • These children tend to lash out at challenges to their overblown self-images and, thus, are also likely to be hostile and aggressive • American cultural values have increasingly emphasized a focus on the self that may lead parents to indulge children and boost their self-esteem too much • The self-esteem of U.S. youths rose sharply from the 1970s-1990s, a period in which most popular parenting literature advised promoting children’s self-esteem • Yet, compared with previous generations, American youths are achieving less well and displaying more antisocial behavior and other adjustment problems • Research has shown that children DO NOT benefit from complements (“You’re terrific!) that have no basis in real attainment • When children strive for worthwhile goals, achievement fosters self-esteem, which, in turn, promotes good performance

  15. Influences on Self-Esteem: Making Achievement-Related Attributions • Attributions are our common, everyday explanations for the causes of behavior (our answers to the question “Why did I or another person do that?”) • School-age children who are high in academic self-esteem and motivation make mastery-oriented attributions • They credit their success to ability (which they can improve through trying hard) and their failures to factors that can be changed, such as insufficient effort • Children who develop learned helplessness attribute their failures to ability, but when they succeed, conclude that external factors, such as luck, are responsible • They believe that ability is fixed and cannot be changed by trying hard • When a task is difficult, these children experience an anxious loss of control, they give up with out really trying

  16. Influences on Self-Esteem: Making Achievement-Related Attributions • Children’s attributions affect their goals • Mastery oriented children • Seek information on how best to increase their ability through effort • Hence, their performance improves over time • Learned helplessness children • Focus on obtaining positive and avoiding negative evaluations of their fragile sense of ability • Over time, their ability no longer predicts how well they do • Because they fail to connect effort with success they do not develop the metacognitive and self-regulatory skills necessary for high achievement • Lack of effective learning strategies, reduced persistence, low performance, and a sense of loss of control sustain one another in a vicious cycle

  17. Influences on Achievement-Related Attributions • Parental communication plays a key role in children’s attributions • Learned-helplessness children tend to have parents who believe their child is not very capable and has to work harder to succeed • Ex. When the child fails, the parent might say “You can’t do that, can you? It’s OK if you quit.” • Ex. After the child succeeds, the parent might give feedback that evaluates the child’s traits, “You’re so smart!” • Parents of learned-helplessness children tend to give them feedback in the form of trait statements (“You’re so smart!”) • Trait statements promote a fixed view of ability, leading children to question their competence in the face of setbacks and to retreat from challenge • Teachers’ messages also affect children’s attributions • Teachers who emphasize learning over getting good grades tend to have mastery-oriented students • Students with unsupportive teachers tend to regard their performance as externally controlled (ex. by luck or teachers) • They withdraw from learning activities and their achievement declines (which leads children to doubt their ability further)

  18. Influences on Achievement-Related Attributions • For some children performance is especially likely to be undermined by negative adult feedback • Despite their higher achievement, girls more often than boys blame their poor performance on ability • Girls tend to receive messages from teachers and parents that their ability is at fault when they do not do well, and negative stereotypes (ex. Girls are weak in math) reduce their interest and effort • Low-SES ethnic minority students often receive less favorable feedback from teachers • Especially when assigned to homogeneous groups of poorly achieving students (which typically results in a drop in academic self-esteem and performance) • Cultural values affect the likelihood that children will develop learned helplessness • Because of the high value their culture places on effort and self-improvement, Asians pay more attention to failure than to success, because failure indicates were corrective action is needed • Americans, in contrast, focus more on success because it enhances self-esteem

  19. Fostering a Mastery-Oriented Approach • An intervention called attribution retaining encourages learned-helplessness children to believe that they can overcome failure by exerting more effort • Children are given tasks difficult enough that they will experience some failure, followed by repeated feedback that helps them revise their attributions – “You can do it if you try harder.” • After they succeed, children receive additional feedback – “You’re really good at this.” or “You really tried hard on that one.” – so that they attribute their success to both ability and effort, not chance • Another approach is to encourage low-effort children to focus less on grades and more on mastering a task for its own sake • Instruction in effective strategies and self-regulation is also vital, to compensate for development lost in this area and to ensure that renewed effort pays off • Attribution retaining is best begun early, before children’s views of themselves become hard to change

  20. Emotional Development • Greater self-awareness and social sensitivity support gains in emotional competence in middle childhood • Changes take place in experience of self-conscious emotions, emotional understanding, and emotional self-regulation

  21. Self-Conscious Emotions • In middle childhood, the self-conscious emotions of pride and guilt become clearly governed by personal responsibility and no longer depend on adult monitoring • Children experience pride in new accomplishments and guilt over a transgression, even when no adult is present • Also, children no longer report guilt for any mishap, as they did earlier in the preschool years, now they only report guilt for intentional wrongdoing, such as lying, ignoring responsibilities, or cheating • Pride motivates children to take on challenges • Guilt prompts children to make amends and strive for self-improvement • Harsh reprimands from adults can lead to intense shame (ex. “Everyone else can do it! Why can’t you?”), which is particularly destructive • A shame-induced, sharp drop in self-esteem can trigger withdrawal, depression, and intense anger at those who participated in the shame-evoking situation

  22. Emotional Understanding • School-age children, unlike preschoolers, are likely to explain emotion by referring to internal states (like happy or sad thoughts) rather than to external events • Around age 8, children become aware that they can experience more than one emotion at a time, each of which can be positive or negative and differ in intensity • Ex. A child can be happy they got a present from their grandmother, but also sad that it was a sweater and socks rather than the action figure they really wanted • Appreciating mixed emotions helps children realize that people’s expressions may not reflect their true feelings, and also fosters awareness of self-conscious emotions • Between ages 8-9, they improve sharply in ability to distinguish pride from happiness and surprise • They also understand that pride combines 2 sources of happiness (joy in accomplishment and joy that a significant person recognized that accomplishment) • They can reconcile contradictory facial and situational cues in figuring out another's feelings and can use information about “what might have happened” to predict how people will feel in a new situation

  23. Emotional Understanding • As with self-understanding, gains in emotional understanding are supported by cognitive development and social experiences • Especially adults’ sensitivity to children’s feelings and willingness to discuss emotions • Together, cognitive development and social experience lead to a rise in empathy • As children move closer to adolescence, advances in perspective taking permit an empathetic response not just to people’s immediate distress but also to their general life condition

  24. Emotional Self-Regulation • Rapid gains in emotional self-regulation occur in middle childhood • As children engage in social comparison and care more about peer approval, they must learn to manage negative emotion that threatens their self-esteem • By age 10, most children are able to shift adaptively between 2 general strategies for managing emotion • Problem-centered coping – children appraise the situation as changeable, identify the difficulty, and decide what to so about it • If problem solving doesn’t work, they engage in emotion-centered coping – internal, private, and aimed at controlling distress when little can be done about an outcome • Ex. When faced with an anxiety-provoking test or an angry friend, older school-age children view problem solving and seeking social support as the best strategies • But when outcomes are beyond their control, like after getting a bad grade on a test, they opt for distraction or try to redefine the situation, “Things could be worse. There’ll be another test.”

  25. Emotional Self-Regulation • Through interacting with parents, teachers, and peers, school-age children become more knowledgeable about socially approved ways to display negative emotion • They increasingly prefer verbal strategies (ex. “Please stop pushing and wait your turn.”) to crying, sulking, or aggression • When emotional self-regulation has developed well, children acquire a sense of emotional self-efficacy – a feeling of being in control of their emotional experience • This fosters favorable self-image and an optimistic outlook • The parents of children who are emotionally well-regulated respond sensitively and helpfully when the child is distressed • In contrast, poorly regulated children often experience hostile, dismissive parental reactions to distress and are overwhelmed by negative emotion

  26. Understanding Diversity and Inequality • By the early school years, children associate power and privilege with white people and poverty and inferior status with other ethnicities • They do not necessarily acquire these views directly from parents or friends • Rather, they seem to pick up prevailing societal attitudes from implicit messages in the media and elsewhere in their environments

  27. In-Group and Out-Group Biases: Development of Prejudice • By age 5-7, white children generally evaluate their own racial group more favorably than other peer groups • While many minority children of this age evaluate their own group more negatively than the white majority • With age, children pay more attention to inner traits and begin to understand that people who look different do not think, feel, or act differently • After age 7-8, both majority and minority children express in-group favoritism, and white children’s prejudice against out-group members declines

  28. In-Group and Out-Group Biases: Development of Prejudice • The extent to which children hold racial and ethnic biases depends on several factors • A fixed view of personality traits: Children who believe that personality traits are fixed rather than changeable often judge others as either “good” or “bad” • They ignore circumstances and readily form prejudices based on limited information • Ex. They might infer that “a new child at school who tells a lie to get other kids to like her” is just a bad person • Overly high self-esteem: Children (and adults) with overly high self-esteem are more likely to hold racial and ethnic prejudices • These individuals seem to belittle individuals or groups to justify their own extremely favorable self-evaluation • A social world in which people are sorted into groups: the more adults highlight group distinctions for children and the less interracial contact children experience, the more likely children are to display prejudice

  29. Reducing Prejudice • Providing opportunities for intergroup contact, especially long-term contact in neighborhoods, schools, and communities, is effective • This provides racially and ethnically different children the opportunity to work toward common goals and become personally acquainted • Classrooms that expose children to ethnic diversity, teach them to value those differences, directly address the damage caused by prejudice, and encourage perspective taking and empathy both prevent children from forming negative biases and reduce already acquired biases • Another approach is to teach children to view others’ traits as changeable • Discussing the many possible influences on traits with children • The more children believe that people can change their personalities, the more they report liking and perceiving themselves as similar to members of other groups

  30. Peer Relations • In middle childhood, the society of peers becomes an increasingly important context for development • Peer contact contributes to perspective taking and understanding of self and others • These developments, in turn, enhance peer interaction • Compared with preschoolers, school-age children resolve conflicts more effectively, using persuasion and compromise • Sharing, helping, and other prosocial acts increase • Aggression declines, especially physical attacks • But, verbal and relational aggression continue as children form peer groups

  31. Peer Groups • By the end of middle childhood, children form peer groups – collectives that generate unique values and standards for behavior and social structure of leaders and followers • Peer groups organize on the basis of proximity (being in the same classroom) and similarity in sex, ethnicity, popularity, and aggression • The “peer culture” of a peer group typically consists of a specialized vocabulary, dress code, and place to “hang out” • Children who violate the codes of dress and behavior that grow out of peer groups are often “rebuffed” becoming targets of critical glances and comments • Within the peer group, children acquire many social skills, including cooperation and leadership • When children who are no longer “respected” are excluded from groups, they may turn to other low-status peers for group belonging • Thereby reducing their opportunities to learn socially competent behavior • Desire for group membership can also be satisfied through formal groups, such as scouts and religious youth groups • Of course, adult involvement can hold negative behaviors in check in children’s formal and informal peer groups

  32. Friendships • Whereas peer groups provide children with insight into larger social structures, friendships contribute to the development of trust and sensitivity • During the school years, friendships becomes more complex and psychologically based • Ex. A quote from an 8 year old: “Why is Shelly your best friend? Because she helps me when I’m sad, and she shares…What makes Shelly so special? I’ve known her longer, I sit next to her and got to know her better… How come you like Shelly better than anyone else? She’s done the most for me. She never disagrees, she never eats in front of me, she never walks away when I’m crying, and she helps me with my homework. .. How do you get someone to like you? If you’re nice to [your friends], they’ll be nice to you.”

  33. Friendships • As these responses show, friendship has become a mutually agreed-on relationship in which children like each other’s personal qualities and respond to one another’s needs and desires • Once a friendship forms, trust becomes its defining feature • School age children state that a good friendship is based on acts of kindness that signify that each person can be counted on to support the other • Consequently, older children regard violations of trust, such as not helping when others need help, breaking promises, and gossiping behind the other’s back, as serious breaches of friendship • Because of these factors, school-age children’s friendships are more selective • Whereas preschoolers say they have lots of friends, by age 8-9, children name only a few good friends • Girls, who demand greater closeness than boys, are more exclusive in their friendships

  34. Friendships • Children tend to choose friends who are similar to themselves in age, sex, race, ethnicity, and SES, as well as in personality, popularity, academic achievement, and prosocial behavior • Yet, friendship opportunities offered by children’s environments also affect their choices • In integrated classrooms with mixed-race collaborative learning groups, students form more cross-race friendships • Over middle childhood, friendships remain fairly stable (about 50-70% enduring over a school year, and some for several years) • Through friendships, children come to realize that close friendships can survive disagreements if friends are secure in their liking for one another • Which helps them learn to tolerate criticism and resolve disputes

  35. Friendships • The impact of friendships on children’s development depends on the nature of their friends • Children who bring kindness and compassion to their friendships strengthen each other’s prosocial tendencies and form more lasting ties • When aggressive children make friends, the relationship is often riddled with hostile interaction and is at risk for breakup, especially if only one member of the pair is aggressive • Aggressive girls’ friendships are high in exchange of private feelings but full of jealousy, conflict, and betrayal • Aggressive boys’ friendships involve frequent expressions of anger, coercive statements, physical attacks, and enticements to rule-breaking behavior

  36. Peer Acceptance • Peer acceptance refers to likability – the extent to which a child is viewed by a group of agemates as a worthy social partner • Unlike friendship, likability is not a mutual relationship but is a one-sided perspective, involving the group’s view of an individual • Certain social skills that contribute to friendship enhance peer acceptance • Better accepted children tend to have more friends and more positive relationships with them • To measure peer acceptance, researchers usually use self-reports that measure social preferences or social prominence • Ex. Social preferences: asking children to identify classmates whom the “like very much” or “like very little” • Ex. Social prominence: children’s judgments of whom most of their classmates admire

  37. Peer Acceptance • Children’s self-reports reveal 4 broad categories of social acceptance • Popular children: receive many positive votes (are well-liked) • Rejected children: get many negative votes (are disliked) • Controversial children: receive many votes, both positive and negative • Neglected children: are seldom chosen, either positively or negatively • About 2/3 of pupils in typical elementary school classrooms fit one of these categories • The remaining1/3 are average in peer acceptance and do not receive extreme scores

  38. Peer Acceptance • Peer acceptance is a powerful predictor of psychological adjustment • Rejected children are anxious, unhappy, disruptive, and low in self-esteem • Both teachers and parents rate them as having a wide range of emotional and social problems • Peer rejection in middle childhood is strongly associated with poor school performance, absenteeism, dropping out, substance use, depression, antisocial behavior, and delinquency in adolescence and with criminality in early adulthood • Earlier influences, such as parenting practices and family stress, may largely explain the link between peer acceptance and adjustment • School-age children with peer-relationship problems are more likely to have experienced family stress due to low income, insensitive child rearing, and coercive discipline • Also, rejected children evoke reactions from peers that contribute to their unfavorable development

  39. Determinants of Peer Acceptance • Why is one child liked while another is rejected? • A wealth of research shows that social behavior plays a powerful role

  40. Determinants of Peer Acceptance: Popular Children • Popular-prosocial children – usually combine academic and social competence • They perform well in school and communicating with peers in sensitive, friendly, and cooperative ways • Popular-antisocial children – may be “tough” boys who are athletically skilled but are poor students who cause trouble and defy adult authority, or relationally aggressive boys and girls who ignore, exclude, and spread rumors about other children as a way of enhancing their own status • Despite their aggressiveness, peers view these youths as “cool,” perhaps because of their athletic ability and sophisticated but devious social skills • Although peer admiration gives these children some protection against lasting adjustment difficulties, their antisocial acts require intervention • With age, peers like these high-status, aggressive peers less and less • This trend is stronger for relationally aggressive girls • The more socially prominent and controlling these girls become, the more they engage in relational aggression • Eventually peers condemn their nasty tactics and reject them

  41. Determinants of Peer Acceptance: Rejected Children • Rejected-aggressive children – the largest subtype of rejected children, show high rates of conflict, physical and relational aggression, and hyperactive and impulsive behavior • Are also deficient in perspective taking and emotion regulation • Ex. They tend to misinterpret the innocent behaviors of peers as hostile and to blame others for their social difficulties • Compared with popular-aggressive children, they are more extremely antagonistic • Rejected-withdrawn children – are passive, socially awkward, and overwhelmed by social anxiety • They hold negative expectations for treatment by peers, and worry about being scorned and attacked • Rejected children are excluded as early as kindergarten • Soon their classroom participation declines, their feelings of loneliness rise, and their academic achievement falters, and they want to avoid school • Rejected children generally have few or no friends, which results in severe adjustment difficulties • Both types of rejected children are at risk for peer harassment • Rejected –aggressive children also act as bullies • Rejected-withdrawn children are especially likely to be victimized

  42. Determinants of Peer Acceptance: Controversial & Neglected Children • Controversial children display both positive and negative social behaviors, engendering mixed peer opinion • They are hostile and disruptive, but they also engage in positive, prosocial acts • Though they have friends, they often bully others and engage in calculated relational aggression to maintain their dominance • Neglected children, once thought to be in need of treatment, are usually just as socially skilled as average children • They do not report feeling lonely or unhappy, and when they want to, they can break away from their usual pattern of playing by themselves • These children remind us that an outgoing, gregarious personality style is not the only path to emotional wellbeing

  43. Gender Typing • Children’s understanding of gender roles broadens in middle childhood • And, their gender identities (views of themselves as relatively masculine or feminine) change as well • Development differs for girls and boys, and it can vary considerably across cultures

  44. Gender-Stereotyped Beliefs • Gender stereotyping of personality traits increases steadily in middle childhood, and is adultlike by age 11 • Ex. Children regard “tough,” “aggressive,” “rational,” and “dominant” as masculine and “gentle,” “sympathetic,” and “dependent” as feminine • Children make these distinctions on the basis of observed sex differences in behavior and of differential adult treatment of boys and girls • When helping a child with a task, parents (especially fathers) behave in a more mastery-oriented fashion with sons, setting higher standards, explaining concepts, and pointing out important features of tasks (particularly during gender-typed tasks such as science activities) • Parents less often encourage girls to make their own decisions • Parents and teachers more often praise boys for knowledge and accomplishment and girls for obedience

  45. Gender-Stereotyped Beliefs • School-age children consider certain academic subjects as feminine and others as masculine • They often regard reading, spelling, art, and music as more for girls and mathematics, athletics, and mechanical skills are more for boys • These attitudes influence children’s preferences for and sense of competence at certain subjects • Ex. Boys tend to feel more competent than girls at math and science, whereas girls feel more competent than boys as language arts (even when children of equal skill level are compared) • Although school-age children are aware of many stereotypes, they also develop a more open-minded view of what males and females can do • The ability to classify flexibly underlies this change • They realize that a person can belong to more than one social category (ex. One can be a “boy” yet “like to play house”) • By the end of middle childhood, children regard gender typing as socially rather than biologically influenced • But, acknowledging that people can cross gender lines does not mean they always approve of doing so • They take a harsh view of certain violations (ex. Boys playing with dolls and wearing girls’ clothing, girls acting noisily and roughly) • They are especially intolerant when boys engage in “cross-gender” acts, which children regard as nearly as bad as moral transgressions

  46. Gender Identity and Behavior • From 3rd-6th grade, boys strengthen their identification with “masculine” personality traits • While girls’ identification with “feminine” traits declines • Compared with boys, who usually stick to “masculine” pursuits, girls begin to experiment with a wider range of options and more often consider traditionally male future work roles • These changes reflect a mixture of cognitive and social forces • School-age children are aware that society attaches greater prestige to “masculine” characteristics • Parents, especially fathers, are more tolerant of girls than boys crossing gender lines • A tomboyish girl can make her way into boys’ activities without losing the approval of her female peers, but a boy who hangs out with girls is likely to be ridiculed and rejected

  47. Gender Identity and Behavior • As children make social comparisons and characterize themselves in terms of stable dispositions, gender identity expands to include self-evaluations, which greatly affect adjustment • Gender typicality – the degree to which the child feels similar to others of the same gender • Although children don’t need to be highly gender-typed to view themselves as gender-typical, their psychological well-being depends, to some degree, on feeling that they “fit in” with their same-sex peers • Gender contentedness – the degree to which the child feels satisfied with his or her gender assignment, which also promotes happiness • Felt pressure to conform to gender roles – the degree to which the child feels parents and peers disapprove of his or her gender-related traits • Because such pressure reduces the likelihood that children will explore options related to their interests and talents, children who feel strong gender-typed pressure are often distressed

  48. Gender Identity and Behavior • How children feel about themselves in relations to their gender group becomes vitally important in middle childhood • Those who experience rejection because of their gender-atypical traits suffer profoundly • Currently, researchers and therapists are debating how best to help children who feel gender-atypical • Some experts advocate using therapy to make gender-atypical children more gender-typical • Through therapy and reinforcing children for engaging in traditional gender-role activities so they will feel more compatible with same-sex peers • Others oppose this approach on grounds that it is likely to heighten felt pressure to conform (which predicts maladjustment) • And for children who fail to “change” this may result in parental rejection • These experts advocate intervening with parents and peers to help them become more accepting of children’s gender-atypical interests and behaviors

  49. Family Influences • As children move into school, peer, and community contexts, the parent-child relationships change • At the same time, children’s well-being continues to depend on the quality of family interaction • Contemporary changes in families (high rates of divorce, remarriage, and maternal employment) can have positive and negative effects on children

  50. Parent-Child Relationships • In middle childhood, the amount of time children spend with parents declines dramatically, and the child’s growing independence means that parents must deal with new issues • Ex. How many chores to assign, how much allowance to give, whether their friends are good influences, what to do about problems in school, keeping track of children when they’re out, or even when they’re home and the parent isn’t there to see what’s going on • Child rearing becomes easier for parents who established an authoritative style in the early years • Reasoning is more effective with school-age children because of their greater capacity for logical thinking and their increased respect for parents’ greater knowledge • Effective parents engage in Coregulation – a form of supervision in which parents exercise general oversight while permitting children to be in charge of moment-to-moment decision making • Grows out of cooperative relationship between parent and child and prepares the child for the greater freedom of adolescence • Parents must guide and monitor from a distance and effectively communicated expectations when they are with their children • Children must inform parents of their whereabouts, activities, and problems so parents can intervene when necessary