Ages Six to Twelve
The elementary years provide a child with a little bit of a lull in the developmental action. Plenty of important developmental milestones still occur during this age, it’s just that they don’t seem to happen as fast and aren’t as noticeable. At around age six, children begin to distinguish between inner states and material outer states, meaning they develop a fuller grasp between what they imagine and what actually is. (Selman, 1980) They also begin to understand the concept of death and other hard life issues. Overall, their understanding of the world becomes less magical and more concrete.
By 8-years of age, a child’s brain is nearly its mature size. Brainwaves also increase, producing a more mature level of brain activity. (Epstein, 1980) This brings a child’s personality and behavior more in line with that of an adult. They’re still young and immature, but most of their cognitive and emotional hardware starts to fall into place. As children get older, they start to become more self-critical. (Harter, 1983) This can have an impact on certain forms of maltreatment, as a more self-critical child is more likely to feel they’re at least partially accountable for abuse. It also means that the social elements of maltreatment are likely to play a much bigger role.
A child’s use of social comparisons to describe themselves increases dramatically after the age of 7. (Ruble, 1983) As a child enters elementary school and continues to socially develop, friends go from physical to emotional. (Youniss & Volpe, 1978) Instead of being mere playmates, a prop for which to do things with, friends become social support. This can also begin to lead to the emergence of antisocial behavior as a byproduct of peer influence. (Bixenstine, DeCorte & Bixenstine, 1976)
Their self-identity also takes on a more social role. During early childhood, a child’s view of self is based primarily on physical features (boy/girl, age, size, hair color, etc.). By around age 8, children begin to distinguish themselves in more psychological terms. (Broughton, 1978) Likes/dislikes, interests, friends, qualities, fears, relations with others; all these become firmly molded into a child’s identity by the elementary years.
This social development is also a child’s biggest detriment, because with it comes all of the negative social persuasion in the world. As a child grows into their tweens (unofficially labeled as 8-11 years old) they become heavily influenced by pop culture and outside social influence. They’ll start to take a bigger interest in fashion, trends, sayings, or mimicking other behavior according to what they find ‘hip.’ With this newfound interest in what others do and say, elementary children start to become more susceptible to social scorn. Like adults, they begin to ‘read’ intentions and assign social maliciousness even where none was intended. As such, this is a time in which kids need plenty of support and guidance to develop emotional intelligence. Without it, kids will face much more potential harm from the various types of abuse.