Middle and Late Childhood

section five

Each forward step we take we leave some phantom of  ourselves behind.

—John Lancaster Spalding

American Educator, 19th Century

Middle and Late Childhood

In middle and late childhood, children are on a different plane, belonging to a generation and feeling all their own. It is the wisdom of the human life span that at no time are children more ready to learn than during the period of expansive imagination at the end of early childhood. Children develop a sense of wanting to make things—and not just to make them, but to make them well and even perfectly. They seek to know and to understand. They are remarkable for their intelligence and for their curiosity. Their parents continue to be important influences in their lives, but their growth also is shaped by peers and friends. They don’t think much about the future or about the past, but they enjoy the present moment. This section consists of two chapters: “Physical and Cognitive Development in Middle and Late Childhood” and “Socioemotional Development in Middle and Late Childhood.”

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chapter 9
chapter outline

1 Physical Changes and Health

Learning Goal 1 Describe physical changes and health in middle and late childhood.

Body Growth and Change

The Brain

Motor Development


Health, Illness, and Disease

2 Children with Disabilities

Learning Goal 2 Identify children with different types of disabilities and discuss issues in educating them.

The Scope of Disabilities

Educational Issues

3 Cognitive Changes

Learning Goal 3 Explain cognitive changes in middle and late childhood.

Piaget’s Cognitive Developmental Theory

Information Processing


Extremes of Intelligence

4 Language Development

Learning Goal 4 Discuss language development in middle and late childhood.

Vocabulary, Grammar, and Metalinguistic Awareness



Second-Language Learning and Bilingual Education

image1 ©Hero Images/Getty Images

The following comments were made Page 266by Angie, an elementary-school-aged girl:

When I was 8 years old, I weighed 125 pounds. My clothes were the size that large teenage girls wear. I hated my body, and my classmates teased me all the time. I was so overweight and out of shape that when I took a P.E. class my face would get red and I had trouble breathing. I was jealous of the kids who played sports and weren’t overweight like I was.

I’m 9 years old now and I’ve lost 30 pounds. I’m much happier and proud of myself. How did I lose the weight? My mom said she had finally decided enough was enough. She took me to a pediatrician who specializes in helping children lose weight and keep it off. The pediatrician counseled my mom about my eating and exercise habits, then had us join a group that he had created for overweight children and their parents. My mom and I go to the group once a week and we’ve now been participating in the program for 6 months. I no longer eat fast food meals and my mom is cooking more healthy meals. Now that I’ve lost weight, exercise is not as hard for me and I don’t get teased by the kids at school. My mom’s pretty happy too because she’s lost 15 pounds herself since we’ve been in the counseling program.

Not all overweight children are as successful as Angie at reducing their weight. Indeed, being overweight or obese in childhood has become a major national concern in the United States. Later in this chapter, we will further explore being overweight and obese in childhood, including obesity’s causes and outcomes.

topical connections looking back

Children grow more slowly in early childhood than in infancy, but they still grow an average of 2.5 inches and gain 4 to 7 pounds a year. In early childhood, the most rapid growth in the brain occurs in the prefrontal cortex. The gross and fine motor skills of children also become smoother and more coordinated. In terms of cognitive development, early childhood is a period in which young children increasingly engage in symbolic thought. Young children’s information-processing skills also improve considerably—executive and sustained attention advance, short-term memory gets better, executive function increases, and their understanding of the human mind makes considerable progress. Young children also increase their knowledge of language’s rule systems, and their literacy benefits from active participation in a wide range of language experiences. Most young children attend an early childhood education program, and there are many variations in these programs.

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During the middle and late childhood years, children grow taller, heavier, and stronger. They become more adept at using their physical skills, and they develop new cognitive skills. This chapter is about physical and cognitive development in middle and late childhood. To begin, we will explore aspects of physical development.

1 Physical Changes and Health

LG1 Describe physical changes and health in middle and late childhood.

Body Growth and Change

The Brain

Motor Development


Health, Illness, and Disease

Continued change characterizes children’s bodies during middle and late childhood, and their motor skills improve. As children move through the elementary school years, they gain greater control over their bodies and can sit and keep their attention focused for longer periods of time. Regular exercise is one key to making these years a time of healthy growth and development.


The period of middle and late childhood involves slow, consistent growth (Hockenberry, Wilson, & Rodgers, 2017). This is a period of calm before the rapid growth spurt of adolescence. During the elementary school years, children grow an average of 2 to 3 inches a year until, at the age of 11, the average girl is 4 feet, 10 inches tall, and the average boy is 4 feet, 9 inches tall. During the middle and late childhood years, children gain about 5 to 7 pounds a year. The weight increase is due mainly to increases in the size of the skeletal and muscular systems, as well as the size of some body organs.

developmental connection
Brain Development

Synaptic pruning is an important aspect of the brain’s development, and the pruning varies by brain region across children’s development. Connect to “Physical Development in Infancy.”

Proportional changes are among the most pronounced physical changes in middle and late childhood. Head circumference and waist circumference decrease in relation to body height (Kliegman & others, 2016; Perry & others, 2018). A less noticeable physical change is that bones continue to ossify during middle and late childhood but yield to pressure and pull more than mature bones.


The development of brain-imaging techniques such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has led to increased research on changes in the brain during middle and late childhood and links between these brain changes and cognitive development (Khundrakpam & others, 2018; Mah, Geeraert, & Lebel, 2017). Total brain volume stabilizes by the end of late childhood, but significant changes in various structures and regions of the brain continue to occur. In particular, the brain pathways and circuitry involving the prefrontal cortex, the highest level in the brain, continue to increase during middle and late childhood (see Figure 1). These advances in the prefrontal cortex are linked to children’s improved attention, reasoning, and cognitive control (de Haan & Johnson, 2016; Wendelken & others, 2016, 2017).

image2 FIGURE 1 The Prefrontal Cortex. The brain pathways and circuitry involving the prefrontal cortex (shaded in purple) show significant advances in development during middle and late childhood. What cognitive processes are linked to these changes in the prefrontal cortex?

Leading developmental neuroscientist Mark Johnson and his colleagues (2009) proposed that the prefrontal cortex likely orchestrates the functions of many other brain regions during development. As part of this neural leadership role, the prefrontal cortex may provide an advantage to neural networks and connections that include the prefrontal cortex. In their view, the prefrontal cortex coordinates the best neural connections for solving a problem at hand.

image3 What characterizes children’s physical growth in middle and late childhood?  ©Chris Windsor/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Changes also occur in the thickness of the cerebral cortex (cortical thickness) in middle and late childhood (Thomason & Thompson, 2011). One study used brain scans to assess cortical thickness in 5- to 11-year-old children (Sowell & others, 2004). Cortical thickening across a two-year time period was observed in the temporal and frontal lobe areas that function in language, which may reflect improvements in language abilities such as reading. Figure 6in “Physical Development in Infancy” shows the locations of the temporal and frontal lobes in the brain.

As children develop, some brain areas become more active Page 268while others become less so (Denes, 2016). One shift in activation that occurs as children develop is from diffuse, larger areas to more focal, smaller areas (Turkeltaub & others, 2003). This shift is characterized by synaptic pruning, a process in which areas of the brain that are not being used lose synaptic connections and areas that are used show increased connections. In one study, researchers found less diffusion and more focal activation in the prefrontal cortex from 7 to 30 years of age (Durston & others, 2006).

Increases in connectivity between brain regions also occurs as children develop (Faghiri & others, 2018). In a longitudinal study of individuals from 6 to 22 years of age, connectivity between the prefrontal and parietal lobes in childhood was linked to better reasoning ability later in development (Wendelken & others, 2017).


During middle and late childhood, children’s motor skills become much smoother and more coordinated than they were in early childhood (Hockenberry, Wilson, & Rodgers, 2017). For example, only one child in a thousand can hit a tennis ball over the net at the age of 3, yet by the age of 10 or 11 most children can learn to play the sport. Running, climbing, skipping rope, swimming, bicycle riding, and skating are just a few of the many physical skills elementary school children can master. In gross motor skills involving large muscle activity, boys usually outperform girls.

Increased myelination of the central nervous system is reflected in the improvement of fine motor skills during middle and late childhood. Children can more adroitly use their hands as tools. Six-year-olds can hammer, paste, tie shoes, and fasten clothes. By 7 years of age, children’s hands have become steadier. At this age, children prefer a pencil to a crayon for printing, and reversal of letters is less common. Printing becomes smaller. At 8 to 10 years of age, the hands can be used independently with more ease and precision. Fine motor coordination develops to the point at which children can write rather than print words. Cursive letter size becomes smaller and more even. At 10 to 12 years of age, children begin to show manipulative skills similar to the abilities of adults. They can master the complex, intricate, and rapid movements needed to produce fine-quality crafts or to play a difficult piece on a musical instrument. Girls usually outperform boys in their use of fine motor skills.


American children and adolescents are not getting enough exercise (Powers & Dodd, 2017; Powers & Howley, 2018). Increasing children’s exercise levels has a number of positive outcomes (Dumuid & others, 2017; Walton-Fisette & Wuest, 2018).

image4 What are some good strategies for increasing children’s exercise?  ©Randy Pench/Zuma Press/Newscom

An increasing number of studies document the importance of exercise in children’s physical development (Dowda & others, 2017; Martin & others, 2018; Pan & others, 2017; Yan & others, 2018). A recent study of more than 6,000 elementary school children revealed that 55 minutes or more of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity daily was associated with a lower incidence of obesity (Nemet, 2016). Further, a research review concluded that exercise programs with a frequency of three weekly sessions lasting longer than 60 minutes were effective in lowering both systolic and diastolic blood pressure (Garcia-Hermoso, Saavedra, & Escalante, 2013).

developmental connection

Experts recommend that preschool children engage in two hours of physical activity per day. Connect to “Socioemotional Development in Early Childhood.”

Aerobic exercise also is linked to children’s cognitive skills (Best, 2010; Lind & others, 2018; Martin & others, 2018). Researchers have found that aerobic exercise benefits children’s processing speed, attention, memory, effortful and goal-directed thinking and behavior, and creativity (Chu & others, 2017; Davis & Cooper, 2011; Davis & others, 2011; Khan & Hillman, 2014; Lind & others, 2018; Ludyga & others, 2018; Monti, Hillman, & Cohen, 2012; Pan & others, 2017). A recent meta-analysis concluded that sustained physical activity programs were linked to improvements in children’s attention, executive function, and academic achievement (de Greeff & others, 2018). Also, a recent study found that a 6-week high-intensity exercise program with 7- to 13-year-olds improved their cognitive control and working memory (Moreau, Kirk, & Waldie, 2018). Further, in a recent fMRI study of physically unfit 8- to 11-year-old overweight children, a daily instructor-led aerobic exercise program that lasted eight months was effective in improving the efficiency of neural circuits that support better cognitive functioning (Kraftt & others, 2014).

Parents and schools play important Page 269roles in determining children’s exercise levels (Brusseau & others, 2018; de Heer & others, 2017; Lind & others, 2018; Lo & others, 2018; Solomon-Moore & others, 2018). Growing up with parents who exercise regularly provides positive models of exercise for children (Crawford & others, 2010). In addition, a research review found that school-based physical activity was successful in improving children’s fitness and lowering their fat levels (Kriemler & others, 2011).

Screen time also is linked with low activity, obesity, and worse sleep patterns in children (Tanaka & others, 2017). A recent research review found that a higher level of screen time increased the risk of obesity for low- and high-activity children (Lane, Harrison, & Murphy, 2014). Also, a recent study of 8- to 12-year-olds found that screen time was associated with lower connectivity between brain regions, as well as lower levels of language skills and cognitive control (Horowitz-Kraus & Hutton, 2018). In this study, time spent reading was linked to higher levels of functioning in these areas.

Here are some ways to encourage children to exercise more:

· Offer more physical activity programs run by volunteers at school facilities.

· Improve physical fitness activities in schools.

· Have children plan community and school activities that interest them.

· Encourage families to focus more on physical activity, and encourage parents to exercise more.


For the most part, middle and late childhood is a time of excellent health. Disease and death are less prevalent at this time than during other periods in childhood and in adolescence. However, many children in middle and late childhood face health problems that harm their development.

Accidents and Injuries Injuries are the leading cause of death during middle and late childhood, and the most common cause of severe injury and death in this period is motor vehicle accidents, either as a pedestrian or as a passenger (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017c). For this reason, safety advocates recommend the use of safety-belt restraints and child booster seats in vehicles because they can greatly reduce the severity of motor vehicle injuries (Eberhardt & others, 2016; Shimony-Kanat & others, 2018). For example, one study found that child booster seats reduced the risk for serious injury by 45 percent for 4- to 8-year-old children (Sauber-Schatz & others, 2014). Other serious injuries involve bicycles, skateboards, roller skates, and other sports equipment (Perry & others, 2018).

Overweight Children Being overweight is an increasingly prevalent health problem in children (Blake, 2017; Donatelle, 2019; Smith & Collene, 2019). Recall that being overweight is defined in terms of body mass index (BMI), which is computed by a formula that takes into account height and weight—children at or above the 97th percentile are included in the obesity category, at or above the 95th percentile in the overweight category, and children at or above the 85th percentile are described as at risk for being overweight (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017b). Over the last three decades, the percentage of U.S. children who are at risk for being overweight has increased dramatically. Recently there has been a decrease in the percentage of 2- to 5-year-old children who are obese, which dropped from 12.1 percent in 2009–2010 to 9.4 percent in 2013–2014 (Ogden & others, 2016). In 2013–2014, 17.4 percent of 6- to 11-year-old U.S. children were classified as obese, essentially the same percentage as in 2009–2010 (Ogden & others, 2016).

It is not just in the United States that children are becoming more overweight (Thompson, Manore, & Vaughan, 2017). For example, a study found that general and abdominal obesity in Chinese children increased significantly from 1993 to 2009 (Liang & others, 2012). Further, a recent Chinese study revealed that high blood pressure in 23 percent of boys and 15 percent of girls could be attributed to being overweight or obese (Dong & others, 2015).

developmental connection
Conditions, Diseases, and Disorders

Metabolic syndrome has increased in middle-aged adults in recent years and is linked to early death. Connect to “Physical and Cognitive Development in Middle Adulthood.”

Causes of Children Being Overweight Heredity and environmental contexts are related to being overweight in childhood (Insel & Roth, 2018; Yanovski & Yanovski, 2018). Genetic analysis indicates that heredity is an important factor in children becoming overweight (Donatelle, 2019). Overweight parents tend to have overweight children (Pufal & others, 2012). For example, one study found that the greatest risk factor for being overweight at 9 years of age was having an overweight parent Page 270(Agras & others, 2004). Parents and their children often have similar body types, height, body fat composition, and metabolism (Pereira-Lancha & others, 2012). In a 14-year longitudinal study, parental weight change predicted children’s weight change (Andriani, Liao, & Kuo, 2015).

Environmental factors that influence whether children become overweight include the greater availability of food (especially food high in fat content), energy-saving devices, declining physical activity, parents’ eating habits and monitoring of children’s eating habits, the context in which a child eats, and heavy screen time (Ren & others, 2017). In a recent Japanese study, the family pattern that was linked to the highest risk of overweight/obesity in children was a combination of irregular mealtimes and the most screen time for both parents (Watanabe & others, 2016). Further, a recent study found that children were less likely to be obese or overweight when they attended schools in states that had a strong policy emphasis on healthy foods and beverages (Datar & Nicosia, 2017). Also, a behavior modification study of overweight and obese children made watching TV contingent on their engagement in exercise (Goldfield, 2012). The intervention markedly increased their exercise and reduced their TV viewing time.

image5 What are some of the health risks for overweight and obese children?  ©Image Source/Getty Images

Consequences of Being Overweight The high percentage of overweight children in recent decades is cause for great concern because being overweight raises the risk for many medical and psychological problems (Powers & Dodd, 2017; Schiff, 2019; Song & others, 2018). Diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), and elevated blood cholesterol levels are common in children who are overweight (Chung, Onuzuruike, & Magge, 2018; Martin-Espinosa & others, 2017). Research reviews have concluded that obesity was linked with low self-esteem in children (Gomes & others, 2011; Moharei & others, 2018). And in one study, overweight children were more likely than normal-weight children to report being teased by their peers and family members (McCormack & others, 2011).

Intervention Programs A combination of diet, exercise, and behavior modification is often recommended to help children lose weight (Insel & Roth, 2018; Martin & others, 2018; Morgan & others, 2016). Intervention programs that emphasize getting parents to engage in healthier lifestyles themselves, as well as to feed their children healthier food and get them to exercise more, can produce weight reduction in overweight and obese children (Stovitz & others, 2014; Yackobovitch-Gavan & others, 2018). For example, one study found that a combination of a child-centered activity program and a parent-centered dietary modification program helped overweight children lose pounds over a two-year period (Collins & others, 2011).

Cardiovascular Disease Cardiovascular disease is uncommon in children. Nonetheless, environmental experiences and behavior during childhood can sow the seeds for cardiovascular disease in adulthood (Schaefer & others, 2017). Many elementary-school-aged children already possess one or more of the risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as hypertension (high blood pressure) and obesity (Chung, Onuzuruike, & Magge, 2018; Zoller & others, 2017). In a recent study, the combination of a larger waist circumference and a higher body mass index (BMI) placed children at higher risk for developing cardiovascular disease (de Koning & others, 2015). A recent study found that high blood pressure in childhood was linked to high blood pressure and other heart abnormalities in adulthood (Fan & others, 2018). Also in a longitudinal study, high levels of body fat and elevated blood pressure beginning in childhood were linked to premature death from coronary heart disease in adulthood (Berenson & others, 2016). Further, one study found that high blood pressure went undiagnosed in 75 percent of children with the disease (Hansen, Gunn, & Kaelber, 2007).

Cancer Cancer is the second leading cause of death in U.S. children 5 to 14 years of age. One in every 330 children in the United States develops cancer before the age of 19. The incidence of cancer in children has increased slightly in recent years (National Cancer Institute, 2018).

Childhood cancers mainly attack the white blood cells (leukemia), brain, bone, lymph system, muscles, kidneys, and nervous system. All types of cancer are characterized by an uncontrolled proliferation of abnormal cells (Marcoux & others, 2018). As indicated in Figure 2, the most common cancer in children is leukemia, a cancer in which bone marrow manufactures an abundance of abnormal white blood cells that crowd out normal cells, making the child highly susceptible to bruising and infection (Kato & Manabe, 2018; Shago, 2017).

image6 FIGURE 2 Types of Cancer in Children. Cancers in children have a different profile from adult cancers, which attack mainly the lungs, colon, breast, prostate, and pancreas.Page 271

connecting with careers

Sharon McLeod, Child Life Specialist

Sharon McLeod is a child life specialist who is senior clinical director in the Division of Child Life and Division of Integrative Care at the Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati.

Under McLeod’s direction, the goals of her department are to promote children’s optimal growth and development, reduce the stress of health care experiences, and provide support to child patients and their families. These goals are accomplished by facilitating therapeutic play and developmentally appropriate activities, educating and psychologically preparing children for medical procedures, and serving as a resource for parents and other professionals regarding children’s development and health care issues.

McLeod says that human growth and development provides the foundation for her profession as a child life specialist. She also says her best times as a student were when she conducted fieldwork, had an internship, and experienced hands-on applications of the theories and concepts that she learned in her courses.

image7Sharon McLeod, child life specialist, works with a child at Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati.  Courtesy of Sharon McLeod

For more information about what child life specialists do, see the Careers in Life-Span Development appendix.

Because of advancements in cancer treatment, children with cancer are surviving longer than in the past (National Cancer Institute, 2018). Approximately 80 percent of children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia are cured with current chemotherapy treatment.

Child life specialists are among the health professionals who work to make the lives of children with diseases less stressful. To read about the work of child life specialist Sharon McLeod, see  Connecting with Careers .

Review Connect Reflect

LG1 Describe physical changes and health in middle and late childhood.


· What are some changes in body growth and proportions in middle and late childhood?

· What characterizes the development of the brain in middle and late childhood?

· How do children’s motor skills develop in middle and late childhood?

· What role does exercise play in children’s lives?

· What are some characteristics of health, illness, and disease in middle and late childhood?


· In this section, you learned that increased myelination of the central nervous system is reflected in the improvement of fine motor skills during middle and late childhood. What developmental advances were connected with increased myelination in infancy and early childhood?

Reflect Your Own Personal Journey of Life

· One way that children get exercise is to play a sport. If you played a sport as a child, was it a positive or negative experience? Do you think that playing a sport as a child likely made a difference in whether you have continued to exercise on a regular basis? Explain. If you did not play a sport, do you wish you had? Explain.

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2 Children with Disabilities

LG2 Identify children with different types of disabilities and discuss issues in educating them.

The Scope of Disabilities

Educational Issues


Of all children in the United States, 12.9 percent from 3 to 21 years of age received special education or related services in 2012–2013, an increase of 3 percent since 1980–1981 (Condition of Education, 2016). Figure 3 shows the five largest groups of students with a disability who were served by federal programs during the 2012–2013 school year (Condition of Education, 2016). As indicated in Figure 3, students with a learning disability were by far the largest group of students with a disability to be given special education, followed by children with speech or hearing impairments, autism, intellectual disability, and emotional disturbance. Note that the U.S. Department of Education includes both students with a learning disability and students with ADHD in the category of learning disability.

image8 FIGURE 3 U.S. CHILDREN WITH A DISABILITY WHO RECEIVE SPECIAL EDUCATION SERVICES. Figures are for the 2012–2013 school year and represent the five categories with the highest number and percentage of children. Both learning disability and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are combined in the learning disabilities category (Condition of Education, 2016).

Learning Disabilities The U.S. government created a definition of learning disabilities in 1997 and then reauthorized the definition with a few minor changes in 2004. Following is a summary of the government’s definition of the characteristics that determine whether a child should be classified as having a learning disability. A child with a  learning disability  has difficulty in learning that involves understanding or using spoken or written language, and the difficulty can appear in listening, thinking, reading, writing, and spelling. A learning disability also may involve difficulty in doing mathematics (McCaskey & others, 2017, 2018). To be classified as a learning disability, the learning problem is not primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor disabilities; intellectual disability; emotional disorders; or environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage (Friend, 2018; Heward, Alber-Morgan, & Konrad, 2017).

About three times as many boys as girls are classified as having a learning disability. Among the explanations for this gender difference are a greater biological vulnerability among boys and referral bias. That is, boys are more likely to be referred by teachers for treatment because of troublesome behavior.

Approximately 80 percent of children with a learning disability have a reading problem (Shaywitz & Shaywitz, 2017). Three types of learning disabilities are dyslexia, dysgraphia, and dyscalculia:

· Dyslexia  is a category reserved for individuals who have a severe impairment in their ability to read and spell (Shaywitz & Shaywitz, 2017).

· Dysgraphia  is a learning disability that involves difficulty in handwriting (Hook & Haynes, 2017). Children with dysgraphia may write very slowly, their writing products may be virtually illegible, and they may make numerous spelling errors because of their inability to match sounds and letters.

· Dyscalculia , also known as developmental arithmetic disorder, is a learning disability that involves difficulty in math computation (McCaskey & others, 2017, 2018; Nelson & Powell, 2018).

The precise causes of learning disabilities have not yet been determined (Friend, 2018). Researchers have used brain-imaging techniques, such as magnetic resonance imaging, to explore whether specific regions of the brain might be involved in learning disabilities (Ramus & others, 2018; Shaywitz, Lyon, & Shaywitz, 2006) (see Figure 4). This research indicates that it is unlikely learning disabilities reside in a single, specific brain location. More likely, learning disabilities involve difficulty integrating information from multiple brain regions or subtle impairments in brain structures and functions.

image9 FIGURE 4 BRAIN SCANS AND LEARNING DISABILITIES. An increasing number of studies are using MRI brain scans to examine the brain pathways involved in learning disabilities. Shown here is 9-year-old Patrick Price, who has dyslexia. Patrick is going through an MRI scanner disguised by drapes to look like a child-friendly castle. Inside the scanner, children must lie virtually motionless as words and symbols flash on a screen, and they are asked to identify them by clicking different buttons.  ©Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP Images

Interventions with children who have a learning disability often focus on improving reading ability (Cunningham, 2017; Shaywitz & Shaywitz, 2017; Temple & others, 2018). Intensive instruction over a period of time by a competent teacher can help many children (Thompson & others, 2017).

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)  Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)  is a disability in which children consistently show one or more of the following characteristics over a period of Page 273time: (1) inattention, (2) hyperactivity, and (3) impulsivity. Children who are inattentive have such difficulty focusing on any one thing that they may get bored with a task after only a few minutes—or even seconds. Children who are hyperactive show high levels of physical activity, seeming to be almost constantly in motion. Children who are impulsive have difficulty curbing their reactions; they do not do a good job of thinking before they act. Depending on the characteristics that children with ADHD display, they can be diagnosed as having (1) ADHD with predominantly inattention, (2) ADHD with predominantly hyperactivity/impulsivity, or (3) ADHD with both inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity.

The number of children diagnosed and treated for ADHD has increased substantially in recent decades, by some estimates doubling in the 1990s. The American Psychiatric Association (2013) reported in the DSM-V that 5 percent of children have ADHD, although estimates are higher in community samples. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2016) estimates that ADHD has continued to increase in 4- to 17-year-old children from 8 percent in 2003 to 9.5 percent in 2007 and to 11 percent in 2016. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 13.2 percent of U.S. boys and 5.6 of U.S. girls have ever been diagnosed with ADHD.

There is controversy, however, about the reasons for the increased diagnosis of ADHD (Friend, 2018; Hallahan, Kauffman, & Pullen, 2019). Some experts attribute the increase mainly to heightened awareness of the disorder; others are concerned that many children are being incorrectly diagnosed (Watson & others, 2014).

One study examined the possible misdiagnosis of ADHD (Bruchmiller, Margraf, & Schneider, 2012). In this study, child psychologists, psychiatrists, and social workers were given vignettes of children with ADHD. Some vignettes matched the diagnostic criteria for the disorder, while others did not. The child in each vignette was sometimes identified as male and sometimes as female. The researchers assessed whether the mental health professionals gave a diagnosis of ADHD to the child described in the vignette. The professionals overdiagnosed ADHD almost 20 percent of the time, and regardless of the symptoms described, boys were twice as likely as girls to be diagnosed as having ADHD.

Adjustment and optimal development are difficult for children who have ADHD, so it is important that the diagnosis be accurate (Hechtman & others, 2016; Hallahan, Kauffman, & Pullen, 2019). Children diagnosed with ADHD have an increased risk of lower academic achievement, problematic peer relations, school dropout, adolescent pregnancy, substance use problems, and antisocial behavior (Machado & others, 2018; Regnart, Truter, & Meyer, 2017). For example, a recent study found that childhood ADHD was associated with long-term underachievement in math and reading (Voigt & others, 2017). Also, a recent research review concluded that in comparison with typically developing girls, girls with ADHD had more problems in friendship, peer interaction, social skills, and peer victimization (Kok & others, 2016). Further, a recent research review concluded that ADHD in childhood was linked to the following long-term outcomes: failure to complete high school, other mental and substance use disorders, criminal activity, and unemployment (Erskine & others, 2016). And a recent study revealed that individuals with ADHD were more likely to become parents at 12 to 16 years of age (Ostergaard & others, 2017).

Definitive causes of ADHD have not been found. However, a number of possible causes have been proposed (Hallahan, Kauffman, & Pullen, 2019; Lewis, Wheeler, & Carter, 2017). Some children likely inherit a tendency to develop ADHD from their parents (Hess & others, 2018; Walton & others, 2017). Other children likely develop ADHD because of damage to their brain during prenatal or postnatal development (Bos & others, 2017). Among early possible contributors to ADHD are cigarette and alcohol exposure, as well as a high level of maternal stress during prenatal development and low birth weight (Scheinost & others, 2017).

image10Many children with ADHD show impulsive behavior, such as this boy reaching to pull a girl’s hair. How would you handle this situation if you were a teacher and this were to happen in your classroom?  ©Nicole Hill/Rubberball/Getty Images

As with learning disabilities, advances in brain-imaging technology are facilitating a better understanding of ADHD (Riaz & others, 2018; Sun & others, 2018). One study revealed that peak thickness of the cerebral cortex occurred three years later (at 10.5 years) in children with ADHD than in children without ADHD (at 7.5 years) (Shaw & others, 2007). The delay was more prominent in the prefrontal regions of the brain that are particularly important in attention and planning Page 274(see Figure 5). Another study also found delayed development of the brain’s frontal lobes in children with ADHD, likely due to delayed or decreased myelination (Nagel & others, 2011). Researchers also are exploring the roles that various neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine, might play in ADHD (Auerbach & others, 2017; Baptista & others, 2017).


The delays in brain development just described are in areas linked to executive function (Munro & others, 2018). An increasing focus of interest in the study of children with ADHD is their difficulty with tasks involving executive function, such as behavioral inhibition when necessary, use of working memory, and effective planning (Krieger & Amador-Campos, 2018; Toplak, West, & Stanovich, 2017). Researchers also have found deficits in theory of mind in children with ADHD (Maoz & others, 2018; Mary & others, 2016). Stimulant medication such as Ritalin or Adderall (which has fewer side effects than Ritalin) is effective in improving the attention of many children with ADHD, but it usually does not improve their attention to the levels seen in children who do not have ADHD (Wong & Stevens, 2012). A recent research review also concluded that stimulant medications are effective in treating ADHD during the short term but that longer-term benefits of stimulant medications are not clear (Rajeh & others, 2017). A meta-analysis concluded that behavior management treatments are useful in reducing the effects of ADHD (Fabiano & others, 2009). Researchers have often found that a combination of medication (such as Ritalin) and behavior management improves the behavior of some but not all children with ADHD better than medication alone or behavior management alone (Parens & Johnston, 2009).

The sheer number of ADHD diagnoses has prompted speculation that psychiatrists, parents, and teachers are in fact labeling normal childhood behavior as psychopathology (Mash & Wolfe, 2019; Molina & Pelham, 2014). One reason for concern about overdiagnosing ADHD is that the form of treatment in well over 80 percent of cases is psychoactive drugs, including stimulants such as Ritalin and Adderall (Garfield & others, 2012). Further, there is increasing concern that children who are given stimulant drugs such as Ritalin or Adderall are at risk for developing substance abuse problems, although evidence supporting this concern so far has been mixed (Erskine & others, 2016; Zulauf & others, 2014).

Recently, researchers have been exploring the possibility that neurofeedback might improve the attention of children with ADHD (Alegria & others, 2017; Gelade & others, 2018; Jiang, Abiri, & Zhao, 2017; Moreno-Garcia & others, 2018). Neurofeedback trains individuals to become more aware of their physiological responses so they can attain better control over their brain’s prefrontal cortex, where executive control primarily occurs. Individuals with ADHD have higher levels of electroencephalogram (EEG) abnormalities, and neurofeedback produces audiovisual profiles of these abnormal brain waves so that individuals can learn how to achieve normal EEG functioning. In a recent study, 7- to 14-year-olds with ADHD were randomly assigned to either receive a neurofeedback treatment that consisted of 40 sessions or to take Ritalin (Meisel & others, 2013). Both groups showed a lower level of ADHD symptoms 6 months after the treatment, but only the neurofeedback group performed better academically.

developmental connection
Cognitive Processes

Mindfulness training is being used to improve students’ executive function. Connect to “Socioemotional Development in Adolescence.”

Recently, mindfulness training also has been given to children and adolescents with ADHD (Edel & others, 2017; Evans & others, 2018; Sibalis & others, 2018). A recent meta-analysis concluded that mindfulness training significantly improved the attention of children with ADHD (Cairncross & Miller, 2018).

Exercise also is being investigated as a possible treatment for children with ADHD (Den Heijer & others, 2017; Grassman & others, 2017; Pan & others, 2018). For example, a recent study confirmed that an 8-week yoga program was effective in improving the sustained attention of children with ADHD (Chou & Huang, 2017). Also, a recent meta-analysis concluded that physical exercise is effective in reducing cognitive symptoms of ADHD in individuals 3 to 25 years of age (Tan, Pooley, & Speelman, 2016). And a second recent meta-analysis concluded that a short-term aerobic exercise program was effective in reducing symptoms such as inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity (Cerillo-Urbina & others, 2015). Also, a third recent meta-analysis indicated that exercise is associated with better executive function in children with ADHD (Vysniauske & others, 2018). Among the reasons that exercise might reduce ADHD symptoms in children are (1) better allocation of attention resources, (2) positive influence on prefrontal cortex functioning, and (3) exercise-induced dopamine release (Chang & others, 2012).

image12 How can neurofeedback reduce the symptoms of ADHD in children?  ©Jerilee Bennett/KRT/Newscom

Despite the encouraging results of Page 275recent studies involving the use of neurofeedback, mindfulness training, and exercise to improve the attention of children with ADHD, it still remains to be determined whether these non-drug therapies are as effective as stimulant drugs and/or whether they benefit children as add-ons to stimulant drugs to provide a combination treatment (Den Heijer & others, 2017).

Emotional and Behavioral Disorders Most children have minor emotional difficulties at some point during their school years. However, some children have problems so serious and persistent that they are classified as having an emotional or behavioral disorder (Mash & Wolfe, 2019). These problems may include internalized disorders such as depression or externalized disorders such as aggression.

image13 What characterizes autism spectrum disorders?  ©Rob Crandall/Alamy

Emotional and behavioral disorders  consist of serious, persistent problems that involve relationships, aggression, depression, and fears associated with personal or school matters, as well as other inappropriate socioemotional characteristics (Lewis, Asbury, & Plomin, 2017; Weersing & others, 2017). Approximately 8 percent of children who have a disability and require an individualized education plan fall into this classification. Boys are three times as likely as girls to have these disorders.

Autism Spectrum Disorders  Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) , also called pervasive developmental disorders, range from the severe disorder labeled autistic disorder to the milder disorder called Asperger syndrome. Autism spectrum disorders are characterized by problems in social interaction, problems in verbal and nonverbal communication, and repetitive behaviors (Boutot, 2017; Gerenser & Lopez, 2017). Children with these disorders may also show atypical responses to sensory experiences (National Institute of Mental Health, 2018). Intellectual disability is present in some children with autism; others show average or above-average intelligence (Bernier & Dawson, 2016).

Recent estimates of autism spectrum disorders indicate that they are dramatically increasing in occurrence (or are increasingly being detected). Once thought to affect only 1 in 2,500 children decades ago, they were estimated to be present in about 1 in 150 children in 2002 (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2007). However, in the most recent survey, the estimated percentage of 8-year-old children with autism spectrum disorders had increased to 1 in 68 (Christensen & others, 2016). In the recent surveys, autism spectrum disorders were identified five times more often in boys than in girls, and 8 percent of individuals aged 3 to 21 with these disorders were receiving special education services (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017a).

developmental connection
Conditions, Diseases, and Disorders

Autistic children have difficulty in developing a theory of mind, especially in understanding others’ beliefs and emotions. Connect to “Physical and Cognitive Development in Early Childhood.”

Also, in recent surveys, only a minority of parents reported that their child’s autistic spectrum disorder was identified prior to 3 years of age and that one-third to one-half of the cases were identified after 6 years of age (Sheldrick, Maye, & Carter, 2017). However, researchers are conducting studies that seek to identify earlier determinants of autism spectrum disorders (Reiersen, 2017).

Autistic disorder  is a severe developmental autism spectrum disorder that has its onset during the first three years of life and includes deficiencies in social relationships, abnormalities in communication, and restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behavior.

Asperger syndrome  is a relatively mild autism spectrum disorder in which the child has relatively good verbal language skills, milder nonverbal language problems, and a restricted range of interests and relationships (Boutot, 2017). Children with Asperger syndrome often engage in obsessive, repetitive routines and preoccupations with a particular subject. For example, a child may be obsessed with baseball scores or specific videos on YouTube.

Children with autism have deficits in cognitive processing of information (Jones & others, 2018). For example, a recent study found that a lower level of working memory was the executive function most strongly associated with autism spectrum disorders (Ziermans & others, 2017). Children with these disorders may also show atypical responses to sensory experiences (National Institute of Mental Health, 2017). Intellectual disability is present in some children with autism; others show average or above-average intelligence (Volkmar & others, 2014).

In 2013, the American Psychiatric Association published the new edition (DSM-V) of its psychiatric classification of disorders. In the new classification, autistic disorder, Asperger’s syndrome, and several other autistic variations were consolidated in the overarching category of autism spectrum disorder (Autism Research Institute, 2013). Distinctions are made in terms of the severity of problems based on amount of support needed due to challenges involving social communication, restricted interests Page 276, and repetitive behaviors. Critics argue that the umbrella category proposed for autism spectrum disorder masks the heterogeneity that characterizes the subgroups of autism (Lai & others, 2013).

What causes autism spectrum disorders? The current consensus is that autism is a brain dysfunction characterized by abnormalities in brain structure and neurotransmitters (Ecker, 2017; Fernandez, Mollinedo-Gajate, & Penagarikano, 2018; Khundrakpam & others, 2017). Recent interest has focused on a lack of connectivity between brain regions as a key factor in autism (Abbott & others, 2018; Li, Karmath, & Xu, 2017; Nair & others, 2018; Nunes & others, 2018).

Genetic factors also are likely to play a role in the development of autism spectrum disorders (Valiente-Palleja & others, 2018; Wang & others, 2017; Yuan & others, 2017). One study revealed that mutations—missing or duplicated pieces of DNA on chromosome 16—can raise a child’s risk of developing autism 100-fold (Weiss & others, 2008). There is no evidence that family socialization causes autism.

Children with autism benefit from a well-structured classroom, individualized teaching, and small-group instruction (Friend, 2018; Mastropieri & Scruggs, 2018). Behavior modification techniques are sometimes effective in helping autistic children learn (Alberto & Troutman, 2017; Zirpoli, 2016).


Until the 1970s most U.S. public schools either refused enrollment to children with disabilities or inadequately served them. This changed in 1975 when Public Law 94-142, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, required that all students with disabilities be given a free, appropriate public education. In 1990, Public Law 94-142 was recast as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). IDEA was amended in 1997 and then reauthorized in 2004 and renamed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act.

image14IDEA mandates free, appropriate education for all children. What services does IDEA mandate for children with disabilities?  ©Richard Bailey/Corbis/Getty Images

IDEA spells out broad mandates for services to children with disabilities of all kinds (Smith & others, 2018). These services include evaluation and eligibility determination, appropriate education and an individualized education plan (IEP), and education in the least restrictive environment (LRE) (Cook & Richardson-Gibbs, 2018; Heward, Alber-Morgan, & Konrad, 2017).

An  individualized education plan (IEP)  is a written statement that spells out a program that is specifically tailored for the student with a disability. The  least restrictive environment (LRE)  is a setting that is as similar as possible to the one in which children who do not have a disability are educated. This provision of the IDEA has given a legal basis to efforts to educate children with a disability in the regular classroom. The term  inclusion  describes educating a child with special educational needs full-time in the regular classroom (Lewis, Wheeler, & Carter, 2017; Mastropieri & Scruggs, 2018). In a recent school year (2014), 61 percent of U.S. students with a disability spent more than 80 percent of their school day in a general classroom (compared with only 33 percent in 1990) (Condition of Education, 2015).

The outcomes of many legal changes regarding children with disabilities have been extremely positive (Hallahan, Kauffman, & Pullen, 2018; Smith & others, 2018). Compared with several decades ago, far more children today are receiving competent, specialized services. For many children, inclusion in the regular classroom, with modifications or supplemental services, is appropriate (Friend, 2018; Mastropieri & Scruggs, 2018). However, some leading experts on special education argue that in some cases the effort to educate children with disabilities in the regular classroom has become too extreme. For example, James Kauffman and his colleagues (Kauffman, McGee, & Brigham, 2004) state that inclusion too often has meant making accommodations in the regular classroom that do not always benefit children with disabilities. They advocate a more individualized approach that does not always involve full inclusion but allows options such as special education outside the regular classroom. Kauffman and his colleagues (2004, p. 620) acknowledge that children with disabilities “do need the services of specially trained professionals” and “do sometimes need altered curricula or adaptations to make their learning possible.” However, they believe “we sell students with disabilities short when we pretend that they are not different from typical students. We make the same error when we pretend that they must not be expected to put forth extra effort if they are to learn to do some things—or learn to do something in a different way.” Like general education, special education should challenge students with disabilities “to become all they can be.”

Page 277

Review Connect Reflect

LG2 Identify children with different types of disabilities and discuss issues in educating them.


· Who are children with disabilities? What are some different types of disabilities and what characterizes these disabilities?

· What are some issues in educating children with disabilities?


· Earlier you learned about the development of attention in infancy and early childhood. How might ADHD be linked to earlier attention difficulties in infancy and early childhood?

Reflect Your Own Personal Journey of Life

· Think about your own schooling and how children with learning disabilities or ADHD either were or were not diagnosed. Were you aware of such individuals in your classes? Were they helped by specialists? You may know one or more individuals with a learning disability or ADHD. Ask them about their educational experiences and whether they think schools could have done a better job of helping them.

3 Cognitive Changes

LG3 Explain cognitive changes in middle and late childhood.

Piaget’s Cognitive Developmental Theory

Information Processing


Extremes of Intelligence

Do children enter a new stage of cognitive development in middle and late childhood? How do children process information during this age period? What is the nature of children’s intelligence? Let’s explore some answers to these questions.


According to Jean Piaget (1952), the preschool child’s thought is preoperational. Preschool children can form stable concepts, and they have begun to reason, but their thinking is flawed by egocentrism and magical belief systems. As we discussed earlier, however, Piaget may have underestimated the cognitive skills of preschool children. Some researchers argue that under the right conditions, young children may display abilities that are characteristic of Piaget’s next stage of cognitive development, the stage of concrete operational thought (Gelman, 1969). Here we will cover the characteristics of concrete operational thought and evaluate Piaget’s portrait of this stage.

developmental connection

Centration, a centering of attention on one characteristic to the exclusion of all others, is present in young children’s lack of conservation. Connect to “Physical and Cognitive Development in Early Childhood.”

The Concrete Operational Stage Piaget proposed that the concrete operational stage lasts from approximately 7 to 11 years of age. In this stage, children can perform concrete operations, and they can reason logically as long as reasoning can be applied to specific or concrete examples. Remember that operations are mental actions that are reversible, and concrete operations are operations that are applied to real, concrete objects.

The conservation tasks described earlier indicate whether children are capable of concrete operations. For example, recall that in one task involving conservation of matter, the child is presented with two identical balls of clay. The experimenter rolls one ball into a long, thin shape; the other remains in its original ball shape. The child is then asked if there is more clay in the ball or in the long, thin piece of clay. By the time children reach the age of 7 or 8, most answer that the amount of clay is the same. To answer this problem correctly, children have to imagine the clay rolling back into a ball. This type of imagination involves a reversible mental action applied to a real, concrete object. Concrete operations allow the child to consider several characteristics rather than focusing on a single property of an object. In the clay example, the preoperational child is likely to focus on height or width. The concrete operational child coordinates information about both dimensions.

What other abilities are characteristic of children who have reached the concrete operational stage? One important skill is the ability to classify or divide things into different sets or subsets and to consider Page 278their interrelationships. Consider the family tree of four generations that is shown in Figure 6 (Furth & Wachs, 1975). This family tree suggests that the grandfather (A) has three children (B, C, and D), each of whom has two children (E through J), and that one of these children (J) has three children (K, L, and M). A child who comprehends the classification system can move up and down a level, across a level, and up and down and across within the system. The concrete operational child understands that person J can at the same time be father, brother, and grandson, for example.

image15 FIGURE 6 CLASSIFICATION: AN IMPORTANT ABILITY IN CONCRETE OPERATIONAL THOUGHT. A family tree of four generations (I to IV): The preoperational child has trouble classifying the members of the four generations, while the concrete operational child can classify the members vertically, horizontally, and obliquely (up and down and across). For example, the concrete operational child understands that a family member can be a son, a brother, and a father, all at the same time.

Children who have reached the concrete operational stage are also capable of  seriation , which is the ability to order stimuli along a quantitative dimension (such as length). To see if students can serialize, a teacher might haphazardly place eight sticks of different lengths on a table. The teacher then asks the students to order the sticks by length. Many young children end up with two or three small groups of “big” sticks or “little” sticks, rather than a correct ordering of all eight sticks. Another mistaken strategy they use is to evenly line up the tops of the sticks but ignore the bottoms. The concrete operational thinker simultaneously understands that each stick must be longer than the one that precedes it and shorter than the one that follows it.

Another aspect of reasoning about the relations between classes is  transitivity , which is the ability to logically combine relations to understand certain conclusions. In this case, consider three sticks (A, B, and C) of differing lengths. A is the longest, B is intermediate in length, and C is the shortest. Does the child understand that if A is longer than B and B is longer than C, then A is longer than C? In Piaget’s theory, concrete operational thinkers do, while preoperational thinkers do not.

Evaluating Piaget’s Concrete Operational Stage Has Piaget’s portrait of the concrete operational child withstood the test of research? According to Piaget, various aspects of a stage should emerge at the same time. In fact, however, some concrete operational abilities do not appear in synchrony. For example, children do not learn to conserve at the same time they learn to cross-classify.

Furthermore, education and culture exert stronger influences on children’s development than Piaget reasoned (Bredekamp, 2017; Feeney, Moravcik, & Nolte, 2019; Follari, 2019; Morrison, 2018). Some preoperational children can be trained to reason at a concrete operational stage. And the age at which children acquire conservation skills is related to how much practice their culture provides in these skills.

Thus, although Piaget was a giant in the field of developmental psychology, his conclusions about the concrete operational stage have been challenged. Later, after examining the final stage in his theory of cognitive development, we will further evaluate Piaget’s contributions and examine various criticisms of his theory.

image16An outstanding teacher and instruction in the logic of science and mathematics are important cultural experiences that promote the development of operational thought. Might Piaget have underestimated the roles of culture and schooling in children’s cognitive development?  ©Majority World/Getty Images

Neo-Piagetians  argue that Piaget got some things right but that his theory needs considerable revision. They give more emphasis to how children use attention, memory, and strategies to process information (Case & Mueller, 2001). They especially believe that a more accurate portrayal of children’s thinking requires attention to children’s strategies, the speed at which children process information, the particular task involved, and the division of problem solving into smaller, more precise steps (Morra & others, 2008). These are issues addressed by the information-processing approach, and we discuss some of them later in this chapter.


If instead of describing children’s stages of thinking we were to examine how they process information during middle and late childhood, what would we find? During these years, most children dramatically improve their ability to sustain and control attention (Posner, 2018a, b; Wu & Scerif, 2018). They pay more attention to task-relevant stimuli than to salient stimuli. Other changes in information processing during middle and late childhood involve memory, thinking, metacognition, and executive function (McClelland & others, 2017; Sala & Gobet, 2017; Siegler, 2017).

Memory Earlier we concluded that short-term memory Page 279increases considerably during early childhood but after the age of 7 does not show as much increase.  Long-term memory , a relatively permanent and unlimited type of memory, increases with age during middle and late childhood. In part, improvements in memory reflect children’s increased knowledge and their increased use of strategies. Keep in mind that it is important not to view memory in terms of how children add something to it but rather to underscore how children actively construct their memory (Bauer & others, 2017).

Working Memory Short-term memory is like a passive storehouse with shelves to store information until it is moved to long-term memory. Alan Baddeley (1990, 2001, 2007, 2010, 2012, 2013. 2015, 2017, 2018a, b) defines  working memory  as a kind of mental “workbench” where individuals manipulate and assemble information when they make decisions, solve problems, and comprehend written and spoken language (see Figure 7). Working memory is described as being more active and powerful in modifying information than short-term memory. Working memory involves bringing information to mind and mentally working with or updating it, as when you link one idea to another and relate what you are reading now to something you read earlier.

image17 FIGURE 7 WORKING MEMORY. In Baddeley’s working memory model, working memory is like a mental workbench where a great deal of information processing is carried out. Working memory consists of three main components, with the phonological loop and visuospatial working memory helping the central executive do its work. Input from sensory memory goes to the phonological loop, where information about speech is stored and rehearsal takes place, and visuospatial working memory, where visual and spatial information, including imagery, are stored. Working memory is a limited-capacity system, and information is stored there for only a brief time. Working memory interacts with long-term memory, using information from long-term memory in its work and transmitting information to long-term memory for longer storage.

Note in Figure 7 that a key component of working memory is the central executive, which supervises and controls the flow of information. The central executive is especially involved in selective attention and inhibition, planning and decision making, and troubleshooting. Recall the description of executive function as an umbrella-like concept that encompasses a number of higher-level cognitive processes. One of those cognitive processes is working memory, especially its central executive dimension.

Working memory develops slowly. Even by 8 years of age, children can only hold in memory half the items that adults can remember (Kharitonova, Winter, & Sheridan, 2015).

Working memory is linked to many aspects of children’s development (Baddeley, 2018a, b; Nicolaou & others, 2018; Nouwens, Groen, & Verhoeven, 2017; Sala & Gobet, 2017; Sanchez-Perez & others, 2018; Swanson, 2017). For example, children who have better working memory are more advanced in language comprehension, math skills, problem solving, and reasoning than their counterparts with less effective working memory (Fuchs & others, 2016; Ogino & others, 2017; Peng & Fuchs, 2016; Sanchez-Perez & others, 2018; Simms, Frausel, & Richland, 2018; Tsubomi & Watanabe, 2017). In a recent study, children’s verbal working memory was linked to these aspects of both first and second language learners: morphology, syntax, and grammar (Verhagen & Leseman, 2016).

Knowledge and Expertise Much of the research on the role of knowledge in memory has compared experts and novices. Experts have acquired extensive knowledge about a particular content area; this knowledge influences what they notice and how they organize, represent, and interpret information (Ericsson, 2017; Ericsson & others, 2016, 2018; Varga & others, 2018). These aspects in turn affect their ability to remember, reason, and solve problems. When individuals have expertise about a particular subject, their memory also tends to be good regarding material related to that subject (Staszewski, 2013).

For example, one study found that 10- and 11-year-olds who were experienced chess players (“experts”) were able to remember more information about the location of chess pieces on a chess board than college students who were not chess players (“novices”) (Chi, 1978) (see Figure 8). In contrast, when the college students were presented with other stimuli, they were able to remember them better than the children were. Thus, the children’s expertise in chess gave them superior memories, but only in chess. A key reason the child chess experts did better at this activity was their ability to organize (chunk) the chess pieces into meaningful subgroups based on their understanding of chess.

image18 FIGURE 8 THE ROLE OF EXPERTISE IN MEMORY. Notice that when 10- to 11-year-old children and college students were asked to remember a string of random numbers that had been presented to them, the college students fared better. However, the 10- to 11-year-olds who had experience playing chess (“experts”) had better memory for the location of chess pieces on a chess board than college students with no chess experience (“novices”) (Chi, 1978).

There are developmental Page 280changes in expertise (Ericsson, 2014; Ericsson & others, 2018). Older children usually have more expertise about a subject than younger children do, which can contribute to their better memory for the subject.

Autobiographical Memory Recall that we discussed autobiographical memory, which involves memory of significant events and experiences in one’s life. You are engaging in autobiographical memory when you answer questions such as: Who was your first-grade teacher and what was s/he like? What is the most traumatic event that happened to you as a child?

As children go through middle and late childhood, and through adolescence, their autobiographical narratives broaden and become more elaborated (Bauer, 2015, 2016, 2018; Bauer & Fivush, 2014; Bauer, Hattenschwiler, & Larkina, 2016; Bauer & others, 2017). Researchers have found that children develop more detailed, coherent, and evaluative autobiographical memories when their mothers reminisce with them in elaborated and evaluative ways (Fivush, 2010).

Culture influences children’s autobiographical memories. American children, especially American girls, produce autobiographical narratives that are longer, more detailed, more specific, and more personal than narratives by children from China and Korea (Bauer, 2013, 2015). In their conversations about past events, American mothers and their children are more elaborative and more focused on themes related to being independent while Korean mothers and their children less often engage in detailed conversations about the past. Possibly the more elaborated content of American children’s narratives contributes to the earlier first memories researchers have found in American adults (Han, Leichtman, & Wang, 1998).

Strategies If we know anything at all about long-term memory, it is that long-term memory depends on the learning activities individuals engage in when they are learning and remembering information. A key learning activity involves  strategies , which consist of deliberate mental activities to improve the processing of information (Chu & others, 2018; Graham, 2018a, b; Harris & others, 2018; Nicolielo-Carriho & Hage, 2017). For example, organizing is a strategy that older children, adolescents, and adults use to remember more effectively. Strategies do not occur automatically; they require effort and work.

image19 ©Anthony Harvie/Getty Images

Following are some effective strategies for adults to use when attempting to improve children’s memory skills:

· Advise children to elaborate on what is to be remembered Elaboration  is an important strategy that involves engaging in more extensive processing of information. When individuals engage in elaboration, their memory benefits (Schneider, 2011). Thinking of examples and relating information to one’s own self and experiences are good ways to elaborate information. Forming personal associations with information makes the information more meaningful and helps children to remember it. For example, if the word win is on a list of words a child is asked to remember, the child might think of the last time he won a bicycle race with a friend.

· Encourage children to engage in mental imagery. Mental imagery can help even young schoolchildren to remember pictures. However, for remembering verbal information, mental imagery works better for older children than for younger children.

· Motivate children to remember material by understanding it rather than by memorizing it. Children will remember information better over the long term if they understand the information rather than just rehearse and memorize it. Rehearsal works well for encoding information into short-term memory, but when children need to retrieve the information from long-term memory, it is much less efficient. For most information, encourage children to understand it, give it meaning, elaborate it, and personalize it. Give children concepts and ideas to remember and then ask them how they can relate the concepts and ideas to their own personal experiences and meanings. Give them practice on elaborating a concept so they will process the information more deeply.

· Repeat with variation on the instructional information and link early and often. Variations on a lesson theme increase the number of associations in memory storage and linking expands the network of associations in memory storage; both strategies expand the routes for retrieving information from storage.

· Embed memory-relevant language when instructing children. Teachers vary considerably in how much they use memory-relevant language that encourages students to remember information. In research that involved extensivePage 281observations of a number of first-grade teachers in the classroom, Peter Ornstein and his colleagues (Ornstein, Coffman, & Grammer, 2007, 2009; Ornstein & others, 2010) found that during the time segments observed, the teachers rarely used strategy suggestions or metacognitive (thinking about thinking) questions. In this research, when lower-achieving students were placed in classrooms in which teachers were categorized as “high-mnemonic teachers” who frequently embedded memory-relevant information in their teaching, the students’ achievement increased (Ornstein, Coffman, & Grammer, 2007).

Fuzzy Trace Theory Might something other than knowledge and strategies be responsible for improvement in memory during the elementary school years? Charles Brainerd and Valerie Reyna (1993, 2014; Reyna, 2004; Reyna & others, 2016) argue that fuzzy traces account for much of this improvement. Their  fuzzy trace theory  states that memory is best understood by considering two types of memory representations: (1) verbatim memory trace, and (2) gist. The verbatim memory trace consists of the precise details of the information, whereas gist refers to the central idea of the information. When gist is used, fuzzy traces are built up. Although individuals of all ages extract gist, young children tend to store and retrieve verbatim traces. At some point during the early elementary school years, children begin to use gist more and, according to the theory, this contributes to the improved memory and reasoning of older children because fuzzy traces are more enduring and less likely to be forgotten than verbatim traces.

Thinking Three important aspects of thinking are executive function, critical thinking, and creative thinking.

Executive Function In the chapter on “Physical and Cognitive Development in Early Childhood,” you read about executive function and its characteristics in early childhood. Some of the cognitive topics we discuss in this chapter—working memory, critical thinking, creative thinking, and metacognition—can be considered under the umbrella of executive function and linked to the development of the brain’s prefrontal cortex (Bardikoff & Sabbagh, 2017; Groppe & Elsner, 2017; Knapp & Morton, 2017; Muller & others, 2017). Also, earlier in this chapter in the coverage of brain development in middle and late childhood, you read about the increase in cognitive control, which involves flexible and effective control in a number of areas such as focusing attention, reducing interfering thoughts, inhibiting motor actions, and exercising flexibility in deciding between competing choices.

image20 What are some key dimensions of executive function that are linked to children’s cognitive development and school success?  ©Sigrid Olsson/PhotoAlto/Getty Images

Adele Diamond and Kathleen Lee (2011) highlighted the following dimensions of executive function that they conclude are the most important for 4- to 11-year-old children’s cognitive development and school success:

· Self-control/inhibition. Children need to develop self-control that will allow them to concentrate and persist on learning tasks, to inhibit their tendencies to repeat incorrect responses, and to resist the impulse to do something now that they would regret later.

· Working memory. Children need an effective working memory to mentally work with the masses of information they will encounter as they go through school and beyond.

· Flexibility. Children need to be flexible in their thinking to consider different strategies and perspectives.

developmental connection
Cognitive Processes

In early childhood, executive function especially involves advances in cognitive inhibition, cognitive flexibility, and goal-setting. Connect to “Physical and Cognitive Development in Early Childhood.”

Researchers have found that executive function is a better predictor of school readiness than general IQ (Blair & Razza, 2007). A number of diverse activities and factors have been found to increase children’s executive function, such as aerobic exercise (Kvalo & others, 2017); scaffolding of self-regulation (the Tools of the Mind program discussed in the chapter on “Physical and Cognitive Development in Early Childhood” is an example) (Bodrova & Leong, 2015); mindfulness training (Gallant, 2016); and some types of school curricula (the Montessori curriculum, for example) (Diamond & Lee, 2011).

Ann Masten and her colleagues (Herbers & others, 2014; Labella & others, 2018; Masten, 2013, 2014a, b; Masten & Cicchetti, 2016; Masten & Labella, 2016; Monn & others, 2017) have found that executive function and parenting skills are linked to homeless children’s success in school. Masten believes that executive function and good parenting skills are related. In her words, “When we see kids with good executive function, we often see adults around them that are good Page 282self-regulators. . . Parents model, they support, and they scaffold these skills” (Masten, 2012, p. 11).

Critical Thinking Currently, there is considerable interest among psychologists and educators regarding aspects of critical thinking (Bonney & Sternberg, 2017).  Critical thinking  involves thinking reflectively and productively and evaluating evidence. In this text, the second and third parts of the Review, Connect, Reflect sections of each chapter challenge you to think critically about a topic or an issue related to the discussion.

image21 How might mindfulness training be implemented in schools?  ©Ariel Skelley/Blend Images/Getty Images

According to Ellen Langer (2005),  mindfulness —being alert, mentally present, and cognitively flexible while going through life’s everyday activities and tasks—is an important aspect of thinking critically. Mindful children and adults maintain an active awareness of the circumstances in their life and are motivated to find the best solutions to tasks. Mindful individuals create new ideas, are open to new information, and explore multiple strategies and perspectives. By contrast, mindless individuals are entrapped in old ideas, engage in automatic behavior, and often use a single strategy or adopt a single perspective.

Jacqueline and Martin Brooks (2001) lament that few schools really teach students to think critically and develop a deep understanding of concepts. Deep understanding occurs when students are stimulated to rethink previously held ideas. In Brooks and Brooks’ view, schools spend too much time getting students to give a single correct answer in an imitative way, rather than encouraging them to expand their thinking by coming up with new ideas and rethinking earlier conclusions. They observe that too often teachers ask students to recite, define, describe, state, and list, rather than to analyze, infer, connect, synthesize, criticize, create, evaluate, think, and rethink. Many successful students complete their assignments, do well on tests and get good grades, yet they don’t ever learn to think critically and deeply. They think superficially, staying on the surface of problems rather than stretching their minds and becoming deeply engaged in meaningful thinking.

Recently, Robert Roeser and his colleagues (Roeser & Eccles, 2015; Roeser & others, 2014; Roeser & Zelazo, 2012) have emphasized that mindfulness is an important mental process that children can engage in to improve a number of cognitive and socioemotional skills, such as executive function, focused attention, emotion regulation, and empathy. They have proposed that mindfulness training could be implemented in schools through practices such as using age-appropriate activities that increase children’s reflection on moment-to-moment experiences and result in improved self-regulation.

In addition to mindfulness training, activities such as yoga, meditation, and tai chi recently have been suggested as candidates for improving children’s cognitive and socioemotional development (Bostic & others, 2015; Roeser & Pinela, 2014). Together these activities are being grouped under the topic of contemplative science, a cross-disciplinary term that involves the study of how various types of mental and physical training might enhance children’s development (Roeser & Eccles, 2015; Roeser & Zelazo, 2012). In a recent study, a social and emotional learning program that focused on mindfulness and caring for others was effective in improving fourth- and fifth-graders’ cognitive control, mindfulness, emotional control, optimism, and peer relations, and in reducing depressive symptoms (Schonert-Reichl & others, 2015). In other recent research, mindfulness training has been found to improve children’s attention and self-regulation (Poehlmann-Tynan & others, 2016), achievement (Singh & others, 2016), and coping strategies in stressful situations (Dariotis & others, 2016). In a recent study, mindfulness training improved children’s attention and self-regulation (Felver & others, 2017). Also, in two recent studies, mindfulness-based interventions reduced public school teachers’ stress, produced a better mood at school and at home, and resulted in better sleep (Crain, Schonert-Reichl, & Roeser, 2017; Taylor & others, 2016).

developmental connection

How can you cultivate your curiosity and interest to live a more creative life? Connect to “Physical and Cognitive Development in Early Adulthood.”

Creative Thinking Cognitively competent children not only think critically, but also creatively (Renzulli, 2018; Sternberg, 2018e, f; Sternberg & Kaufman, 2018b; Sternberg & Sternberg, 2017).  Creative thinking  is the ability to think in novel and unusual ways and to come up with unique solutions to problems. Thus, intelligence and creativity are not the same thing. This difference was recognized by J. P. Guilford (1967), who distinguished between  convergent thinking , which produces one correct answer and characterizes the kind of thinking that is required on conventional tests of intelligence, and  divergent thinking , which produces many different answers to the same question and characterizes creativity. For example, a typical item on a conventional intelligence test is “How many quarters will you get in return for 60 dimes?” In contrast, the following question has many possible answers: “What image comes to mind when you hear the phrase ‘sitting alone in a dark room’ or ‘some unique uses for a paper clip’?”

A special concern is that children’s creative thinking appears Page 283to be declining. A study of approximately 300,000 U.S. children and adults found that creativity scores rose until 1990, but since then have been steadily declining (Kim, 2010). Among the likely causes of the creativity decline are the number of hours U.S. children spend watching TV and playing video games instead of engaging in creative activities, as well as the lack of emphasis on creative thinking skills in schools (Beghetto & Kaufman, 2017; Renzulli, 2017, 2018; Sternberg, 2018e, f). Some countries, though, are placing increased emphasis on creative thinking in schools. For example, historically, creative thinking has been discouraged in Chinese schools. However, Chinese educators are now encouraging teachers to spend more classroom time on creative activities (Plucker, 2010).

It is important to recognize that children will show more creativity in some domains than others (Sternberg, 2018e, f). A child who shows creative thinking skills in mathematics may not exhibit these skills in art, for example. An important goal is to help children become more creative. The  Connecting Development to Life  interlude offers some recommended ways to accomplish this goal.

image22 What do you mean, “What is it?” It’s the spontaneous, unfettered expression of a young mind not yet bound by the restraints of narrative or pictorial representation.  ©ScienceCartoonsPlus.com

Metacognition  Metacognition  is cognition about cognition, or knowing about knowing (Flavell, 2004). Metacognition can take many forms, including thinking about and knowing when and where to use particular strategies for learning or solving problems (Fitzgerald, Arvaneh, & Dockree, 2017; Norman, 2017). Conceptualization of metacognition consists of several dimensions of executive function, such as planning (deciding how much time to spend focusing on a task, for example) and self-regulation (modifying strategies as work on a task progresses, for example) (Allen & others, 2017; Fergus & Bardeen, 2018).

developmental connection
Cognitive Theory

Theory of mind—awareness of one’s own mental processes and the mental processes of others—involves metacognition. Connect to “Physical and Cognitive Development in Early Childhood.”

Many studies classified as “metacognitive” have focused on metamemory, or knowledge about memory. This includes general knowledge about memory, such as knowing that recognition tests are easier than recall tests. It also encompasses knowledge about one’s own memory, such as a student’s ability to monitor whether she has studied enough for an upcoming test or a child’s confidence in eyewitness judgments (Buratti, Allwood, & Johansson, 2014).

Young children do have some general knowledge about memory (Lukowski & Bauer, 2014). By 5 or 6 years of age, children usually know that familiar items are easier to learn than unfamiliar ones, that short lists are easier to memorize than long ones, that recognition is easier than recall, and that forgetting is more likely to occur over time (Lyon & Flavell, 1993). However, in other ways young children’s metamemory is limited. They don’t understand that related items are easier to remember than unrelated ones and that remembering the gist of a story is easier than remembering information verbatim (Kreutzer, Leonard, & Flavell, 1975). By the fifth grade, students understand that gist recall is easier than verbatim recall.

Young children also have only limited knowledge about their own memory. They have an inflated opinion of their memory abilities. For example, in one study a majority of young children predicted that they would be able to recall all 10 items on a list of 10 items. When tested for this, none of the young children managed this feat (Flavell, Friedrichs, & Hoyt, 1970). As they move through the elementary school years, children give more realistic evaluations of their memory skills (Schneider, 2011).

image23Cognitive developmentalist John Flavell is a pioneer in providing insights about children’s thinking. Among his many contributions are establishing the field of metacognition and conducting numerous studies in this area, including metamemory and theory of mind studies.  Courtesy of Dr. John Flavell

In addition to metamemory, metacognition includes knowledge about strategies (Graham, 2018a, b; Harris & others, 2018; McCormick, Dimmitt, & Sullivan, 2013). Strategies have been the focus of a number of microgenetic investigations (Braithwaite, Tian, & Siegler, 2018; Siegler & Braithwaite, 2017). Recall from the “Introduction” chapter that the microgenetic method involves obtaining detailed information about processing mechanisms as they are occurring from moment to moment (Siegler, 2017). Using the microgenetic approach, researchers have shown that the process of developing effective strategies occurs gradually, not abruptly. This research has found considerable variability in children’s use of strategies, even revealing that they may use an incorrect strategy in solving a math problem for which they had used a correct strategy several trials earlier (Siegler & Braithwaite, 2017).

In the view of Michael Pressley (2003), the key to education is helping students learn a rich repertoire of strategies that produce solutions to problems. Good thinkers routinely use strategies and effective planning to solve problems. Good thinkers also know when and where to use strategies. Understanding when and where to use strategies often results from monitoring the learning situation (Serra & Metcalfe, 2010).

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connecting development to life

Strategies for Increasing Children’s Creative Thinking

Following are some strategies for increasing children’s creative thinking.

Encourage Brainstorming

Brainstorming  is a technique in which people are encouraged to come up with creative ideas in a group, play off each other’s ideas, and say practically whatever comes to mind that seems relevant to a particular issue. Facilitators usually tell participants to hold off from criticizing others’ ideas at least until the end of the brainstorming session.

Provide Environments That Stimulate Creativity

Some environments nourish creativity, while others inhibit it. Parents and teachers who encourage creativity often rely on children’s natural curiosity. They provide exercises and activities that stimulate children to find insightful solutions to problems, rather than ask a lot of questions that require rote answers (Beghetto, 2018; Renzulli, 2018; Sternberg & Kaufman, 2018a). Teachers also encourage creativity by taking students on field trips to locations where creativity is valued. Science, discovery, and children’s museums offer rich opportunities to stimulate creativity.

Don’t Overcontrol

Teresa Amabile (1993, 2018) says that telling children exactly how to do things leaves them feeling that originality is a mistake and exploration is a waste of time. Instead of dictating which activities they should engage in, teachers and parents who let children follow their interests and who support their inclinations are less likely to stifle their natural curiosity (Hennessey, 2011, 2017, 2018).

Encourage Internal Motivation

Parents and teachers should avoid excessive use of prizes, such as gold stars, money, or toys, which can stifle creativity by undermining the intrinsic pleasure students derive from creative activities (Hennessey, 2011, 2017, 2018). Creative children’s motivation is the satisfaction generated by the work itself.

Build Children’s Confidence

To expand children’s creativity, teachers and parents should encourage children to believe in their own ability to create something innovative and worthwhile. Building children’s confidence in their creative skills aligns with Bandura’s (2012) concept of self-efficacy, the belief that one can master a situation and produce positive outcomes.

Guide Children to Be Persistent and Delay Gratification

Parents and teachers need to be patient and understand that most highly successful creative products take years to develop (Sternberg, 2018g, h). Most creative individuals work on ideas and projects for months and years without being rewarded for their efforts (Sternberg, 2018g, h).

Encourage Children to Take Intellectual Risks

Parents and teachers should encourage children to take intellectual risks. Creative individuals take intellectual risks and seek to discover or invent something never before discovered or invented. Creative people are not afraid of failing or getting something wrong (Sternberg, 2018e, f).

Introduce Children to Creative People

Teachers can invite creative people to their classrooms and ask them to describe what helps them become creative or to demonstrate their creative skills. A writer, poet, musician, scientist, and many others can bring their props and productions to the classroom, turning it into a forum for stimulating students’ creativity.

image24 What are some good strategies for guiding children in thinking more creatively?  ©Fuse/Getty Images

You learned that it is important to recognize that children will show more creativity in some domains than others. Choose one of the strategies mentioned above and describe how you would implement it differently to encourage creativity in writing, science, math, and art in children in middle and late childhood.

Pressley and his colleagues (Pressley & others, 2003, 2004, 2007) spent considerable time in recent years observing strategy instruction by teachers and strategy use by students in elementary and secondary school classrooms. They conclude that strategy instruction is far less complete and intense than what students need to receive in order to learn how to use strategies effectively. They argue that education Page 285ought to be restructured so that students are provided with more opportunities to become competent strategic learners.


How can intelligence be defined?  Intelligence  is the ability to solve problems and to adapt and learn from experiences. Interest in intelligence has often focused on individual differences and assessment.  Individual differences  are the stable, consistent ways in which people differ from each other (Sackett & others, 2017). We can talk about individual differences in personality or any other domain, but it is in the domain of intelligence that the most attention has been directed at individual differences (Estrada & others, 2017; Giofre & others, 2017). For example, an intelligence test purports to inform us about whether a student can reason better than others who have taken the test (Jaarsveld & Lachmann, 2017). Let’s go back in history and see what the first intelligence test was like.

image25Alfred Binet constructed the first intelligence test after being asked to create a measure to determine which children could benefit from instruction in France’s schools and which could not.  ©Bettmann/Getty Images

The Binet Tests In 1904, the French Ministry of Education asked psychologist Alfred Binet to devise a method of identifying children who were unable to learn in school. School officials wanted to reduce crowding by placing students who did not benefit from regular classroom teaching in special schools. Binet and his student Theophile Simon developed an intelligence test to meet this request. The test is called the 1905 Scale. It consisted of 30 questions on topics ranging from the ability to touch one’s ear to the ability to draw designs from memory and define abstract concepts.

developmental connection

Does intelligence decrease when individuals become middle-aged? Connect to “Physical and Cognitive Development in Middle Adulthood.”

Binet developed the concept of  mental age (MA) , an individual’s level of mental development relative to others. Not much later, in 1912, William Stern created the concept of  intelligence quotient (IQ) , a person’s mental age divided by chronological age (CA), multiplied by 100; that is, IQ = MA/CA × 100. If mental age is the same as chronological age, then the person’s IQ is 100. If mental age is above chronological age, then IQ is more than 100. If mental age is below chronological age, then IQ is less than 100.

The Binet test has been revised many times to incorporate advances in the understanding of intelligence and intelligence tests. These revisions are called the Stanford-Binet tests (Stanford University is where the revisions have been done). In 2004, the test—now called the Stanford-Binet 5—was revised to analyze an individual’s response in five content areas: fluid reasoning, knowledge, quantitative reasoning, visual-spatial reasoning, and working memory. A general composite score also is still obtained.

By administering the test to large numbers of people of different ages (from preschool through late adulthood) from different backgrounds, researchers have found that scores on the Stanford-Binet approximate a normal distribution (see Figure 9). A  normal distribution  is symmetrical, with a majority of the scores falling in the middle of the possible range of scores and much fewer scores appearing toward the extremes of the range.

image26 FIGURE 9 The Normal Curve and Stanford-Binet IQ Scores. The distribution of IQ scores approximates a normal curve. Most of the population falls in the middle range of scores. Notice that extremely high and extremely low scores are very rare. Slightly more than two-thirds of the scores fall between 85 and 115. Only about 1 in 50 individuals has an IQ higher than 130, and only about 1 in 50 individuals has an IQ lower than 70.

The Wechsler Scales Another set of widely used tests to assess students’ intelligence is called the Wechsler scales, developed by psychologist David Wechsler. They include the Wechsler Preschool and Page 286Primary Scale of Intelligence—Fourth Edition (WPPSI-IV) to test children from 2.5 years to 7.25 years of age; the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children—Fifth Edition (WISC-V) for children and adolescents 6 to 16 years of age; and the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale—Fourth Edition (WAIS-IV).

The WISC-V now not only provides an overall IQ score but also yields five composite scores (Verbal Comprehension, Working Memory, Processing Speed, Fluid Reasoning, and Visual Spatial) (Canivez, Watkins, & Dombrowski, 2017). These scores allow the examiner to quickly see whether the individual is strong or weak in different areas of intelligence. The Wechsler scales also include 16 verbal and nonverbal subscales. Three of the Wechsler subscales are shown in Figure 10.

image27 FIGURE 10 SAMPLE SUBSCALES OF THE WECHSLER INTELLIGENCE SCALE FOR CHILDREN—FOURTH EDITION (WISC-IV). The Wechsler includes 11 subscales—6 verbal and 5 nonverbal. Three of the subscales are shown here.  Source: Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, Fifth Edition (WISC-V), Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc., 2014.

Types of Intelligence Is it more appropriate to think of a child’s intelligence as a general ability or as a number of specific abilities? Robert Sternberg and Howard Gardner have proposed influential theories oriented to this second viewpoint.

Sternberg’s Triarchic Theory Robert J. Sternberg (1986, 2004, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014a, b, 2015, 2016a, b, 2017a, b; 2018a, b, c, d) developed the  triarchic theory of intelligence , which states that intelligence comes in three forms: (1) analytical intelligence, which refers to the ability to analyze, judge, evaluate, compare, and contrast; (2) creative intelligence, which consists of the ability to create, design, invent, originate, and imagine; and (3) practical intelligence, which involves the ability to use, apply, implement, and put ideas into practice.

Sternberg (2017a, b, 2018a, b, c, d) says that children with different triarchic patterns “look different” in school. Students with high analytic ability tend to be favored in conventional schooling. They often do well under direct instruction, in which the teacher lectures and gives students objective tests. They often are considered to be “smart” students who get good grades, show up in high-level tracks, do well on traditional tests of intelligence and the SAT, and later get admitted to competitive colleges.

In contrast, children who are high in creative intelligence often are not on the top rung of their class. Many teachers have specific expectations about how assignments should be done, and creatively intelligent students may not conform to those expectations. Instead of giving conformist answers, they give unique answers, for which they might get reprimanded or marked down. No teacher wants to discourage creativity, but Sternberg stresses that too often a teacher’s desire to increase students’ knowledge suppresses creative thinking.

Like children high in creative intelligence, children with predominantly practical intelligence often do not relate well to the demands of school. However, many of these children do well outside of the classroom’s walls. They may have excellent social skills and good common sense. As adults, some become successful managers, entrepreneurs, or politicians in spite of having undistinguished school records.

image28Robert J. Sternberg developed the triarchic theory of intelligence.  Courtesy of Dr. Robert Sternberg

Gardner’s Eight Frames of Mind Howard Gardner (1983, 1993, 2002, 2016) suggests there are eight types of intelligence, or “frames of mind.” These are described here, with examples of the types of vocations in which they are regarded as strengths (Campbell, Campbell, & Dickinson, 2004):

· Verbal: The ability to think in words and use language to express meaning. Occupations: authors, journalists, speakers.

· Mathematical: The ability to carry out mathematical operations. Occupations: scientists, engineers, accountants.

· Spatial: The ability to think three-dimensionally. Occupations: architects, artists, sailors.

· Bodily-kinesthetic: The ability to manipulate objects and be physically adept. Occupations: surgeons, craftspeople, dancers, athletes.

· Musical: A sensitivity to pitch, melody, rhythm, and tone. Occupations: composers and musicians.

· Interpersonal: The ability to understand and Page 287interact effectively with others. Occupations: successful teachers, mental health professionals.

· Intrapersonal: The ability to understand oneself. Occupations: theologians, psychologists.

· Naturalist: The ability to observe patterns in nature and understand natural and human-made systems. Occupations: farmers, botanists, ecologists, landscapers.

According to Gardner, everyone has all of these intelligences to varying degrees. As a result, we prefer to learn and process information in different ways. People learn best when they can do so in a way that uses their stronger intelligences.

Evaluating the Multiple-Intelligence Approaches Sternberg’s and Gardner’s approaches have much to offer. They have stimulated teachers to think more broadly about what makes up children’s competencies (Gardner, 2016; Gardner, Kornhaber, & Chen, 2018; Sternberg, 2017a, b, 2018a, b, c). And they have motivated educators to develop programs that instruct students in multiple domains. These approaches have also contributed to interest in assessing intelligence and classroom learning in innovative ways, such as by evaluating student portfolios (Moran & Gardner, 2006, 2007).

image29Howard Gardner, here working with a young child, developed the view that intelligence comes in the forms of eight kinds of skills: verbal, mathematical, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, intrapersonal, interpersonal, and naturalist.  Courtesy of Dr. Howard Gardner and Jay Gardner

However, doubts about multiple-intelligence approaches persist and many psychologists endorse the general intelligence approach (Burkhart, Schubiger, & van Schaik, 2017; Hagmann-von Arx, Lemola, & Grob, 2018). A number of psychologists think that the multiple-intelligence views have taken the concept of specific intelligences too far (Reeve & Charles, 2008). Some argue that a research base to support the three intelligences of Sternberg or the eight intelligences of Gardner has not yet emerged. One expert on intelligence, Nathan Brody (2007), observes that people who excel at one type of intellectual task are likely to excel in others. Thus, individuals who do well at memorizing lists of digits are also likely to be good at solving verbal problems and spatial layout problems. Other critics suggest that if musical skill reflects a distinct type of intelligence, why not label the skills of outstanding chess players, prizefighters, painters, and poets as types of intelligence?

Advocates of the concept of general intelligence point to its accuracy in predicting school and job success. For example, scores on tests of general intelligence are substantially correlated with school grades and achievement test performance, both at the time of the test and years later (Cucina & others, 2016; Strenze, 2007). For example, a recent meta-analysis of 240 independent samples and more than 100,000 individuals found a correlation of +.54 between intelligence and school grades (Roth & others, 2015). Also, a recent study found a significant link between children’s general intelligence and their self-control (Meldrum & others, 2017).

The argument between those who support the concept of general intelligence and those who advocate the multiple-intelligence view is ongoing (Gardner, Kornhaber, & Chen, 2018; Hilger & others, 2017). Sternberg (2017a, b, 2018b, c) acknowledges the existence of a general intelligence for the kinds of analytical tasks that traditional IQ tests assess but thinks that the range of tasks those tests measure is far too narrow.

Interpreting Differences in IQ Scores The IQ scores that result from tests such as the Stanford-Binet and Wechsler scales provide information about children’s mental abilities. However, interpreting what performance on an intelligence test means is a subject of debate among researchers (Deary, 2012; Sternberg, 2017a, b, 2018a, b, c).

The Influence of Genetics How strong is the effect of genetics on intelligence? This question is difficult to answer because making clear-cut distinctions between the influences of heredity and environment is virtually impossible. Also, most research on heredity and environment does not include environments that differ radically. Thus, it is not surprising that many genetic studies show environment to be a fairly weak influence on intelligence.

Have scientists been able to pinpoint specific genes that are linked to intelligence? A research review concluded that there may be more than 1,000 genes that affect intelligence, each possibly having a small influence on an individual’s intelligence (Davies & others, 2011). Thus, some scientists argue that there is a strong genetic component to intelligence (Hill & others, 2018; Rimfeld & others, 2017; Zabaneh & others, 2017). One strategy for examining the role of heredity in intelligence is to compare the IQs of identical and fraternal twins. Recall that identical twins have exactly the same genetic makeup but fraternal twins do not. If intelligence is genetically determined, say some investigators, the IQs of identical twins should be more similar than Page 288the IQs of fraternal twins. A research review of many studies found that the difference between the average correlation of IQs of identical and fraternal twins was .15, a relatively small difference (Grigorenko, 2000) (see Figure 11).

image30 FIGURE 11 CORRELATION BETWEEN INTELLIGENCE TEST SCORES AND TWIN STATUS. The graph represents a summary of research findings that have compared the intelligence test scores of identical and fraternal twins. An approximate .15 difference has been found, with a higher correlation for identical twins (.75) and a lower correlation for fraternal twins (.60).

Today, most researchers agree that genetics and environment interact to influence intelligence. For most people, this means that modifications in environment can change their IQ scores considerably. Although genetic endowment may always influence a person’s intellectual ability, the environmental influences and opportunities available to children and adults do make a difference (Sternberg, 2017a, b; 2018a, b, c).

Environmental Influences In the chapter on “Cognitive Development in Infancy” we described a study that demonstrated the influence of parental communication patterns on children’s cognitive abilities. Researchers went into homes and observed how extensively parents from welfare and middle-income professional families communicated with their young children (Hart & Risley, 1995). They found that the middle-income professional parents were much more likely to communicate with their young children than the welfare parents were. How much the parents communicated with their children in the first three years of their lives was correlated with the children’s Stanford-Binet IQ scores at age 3. The more parents communicated with their children, the higher the children’s IQs were.

The environment’s role in intelligence also is reflected in the 12- to 18-point increase in IQ that occurs when children are adopted from lower-SES to middle-SES families (Nisbett & others, 2012). Environmental influences on intelligence also involve schooling (Gustafsson, 2007). The biggest effects have been found when large groups of children have been deprived of formal education for an extended period, resulting in lower intelligence (Ceci & Gilstrap, 2000). Another possible effect of education can be seen in rapidly increasing IQ test scores around the world (Flynn, 1999, 2007, 2011, 2013). IQ scores have been increasing so quickly that a high percentage of people regarded as having average intelligence at the turn of the century would be considered below average in intelligence today (see Figure 12). If a representative sample of people today took the Stanford-Binet test version used in 1932, about 25 percent would be defined as having very superior intelligence, a label usually accorded to fewer than 3 percent of the population. Because the increase has taken place in a relatively short time, it can’t be due to heredity, but rather may be due to increasing levels of education attained by a much greater percentage of the world’s population, or to other environmental factors such as the explosion of information to which people are exposed (Laciga & Cigler, 2017; Shenk, 2017; Weber, Dekhtyar, & Herlitz, 2017). The worldwide increase in intelligence test scores that has occurred over a short time frame has been called the Flynn effect after the researcher who discovered it, James Flynn.

image31 FIGURE 12 INCREASING IQ SCORES FROM 1932 TO 1997. As measured by the Stanford-Binet intelligence test, American children seem to be getting smarter. Scores of a group tested in 1932 fell along a bell-shaped curve with half below 100 and half above. Studies show that if children took that same test today, half would score above 120 on the 1932 scale. Very few of them would score in the “intellectually deficient” end on the left side, and about one-fourth would rank in the “very superior” range on the right side.  Ulric Neisser, “The Increase in IQ Scores from 1932 to 1997.” Copyright by The Estate of Ulric Neisser. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Researchers are increasingly concerned about finding ways to improve the early environment of children who are at risk for impoverished intelligence and poor developmental outcomes (Hardy, Smeeding, & Ziliak, 2018; Yoshikawa & others, 2017). For various reasons, many low-income parents have difficulty providing an intellectually stimulating environment for their children. Programs that educate parents to be more sensitive caregivers and better teachers, as well as support services such as quality child care and early childhood education programs, can make a difference in a child’s intellectual development (Follari, 2019; Morrison, 2018; Reynolds, Ou, & Temple, 2018). Thus, the efforts to counteract a deprived early environment’s effect on intelligence emphasize prevention rather than Page 289remediation. In a recent two-year intervention study with families living in poverty, maternal scaffolding and positive home stimulation improved young children’s intellectual functioning (Obradovic & others, 2016).

developmental connection

Polygenic inheritance is the term used to describe the effects of multiple genes on a particular characteristic. Connect to “Biological Beginnings.”

In sum, there is a consensus among psychologists that both heredity and environment influence intelligence (Grigorenko & others, 2016; Sauce & Matzel, 2018; Sternberg, 2017a, 2018a). This consensus reflects the nature-nurture issue, which focuses on the extent to which development is influenced by nature (heredity) and nurture (environment). Although psychologists agree that intelligence is the product of both nature and nurture, there is still disagreement about how strongly each influences intelligence.

Culture and Culture-Fair Tests Differing conceptions of intelligence occur not only among psychologists but also among cultures (Sternberg, 2018f). What is viewed as intelligent in one culture may not be thought of as intelligent in another. For example, people in Western cultures tend to view intelligence in terms of reasoning and thinking skills, whereas people in Eastern cultures see intelligence as a way for members of a community to engage successfully in social roles (Nisbett, 2003).

Culture-fair tests  are tests of intelligence that are intended to be free of cultural bias. Two types of culture-fair tests have been devised. The first type includes items that are familiar to children from all socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds, or items that at least are familiar to the children taking the test. For example, a child might be asked how a bird and a dog are different, on the assumption that all children have been exposed to birds and dogs. The second type of culture-fair test has no verbal questions. Even with tests that are designed to be culture-fair, people with more education tend to score higher than do those with less education.

Why is it so hard to create culture-fair tests? Most tests tend to reflect what the dominant culture thinks is important. If tests have time limits, that will bias the test against groups not concerned with time. If languages differ, the same words might have different meanings for different language groups. Even pictures can produce bias because some cultures have less experience with drawings and photographs. Because of such difficulties in creating culture-fair tests, Robert Sternberg concludes that there are no culture-fair tests, only culture-reduced tests.

Ethnic Variations On average, African American schoolchildren in the United States score 10 to 15 points lower on standardized intelligence tests than White American schoolchildren do (Brody, 2000). Children from Latino families also score lower than White children do. These are average scores, however, and there is significant overlap in the distribution of scores. About 15 to 25 percent of African American schoolchildren score higher than half of White schoolchildren do, and many White schoolchildren score lower than most African American schoolchildren.

As African Americans have gained social, economic, and educational opportunities, the gap between African Americans and non-Latino Whites on standardized intelligence tests is shrinking. A research review concluded that the IQ gap between African Americans and non-Latino Whites has been reduced considerably in recent years (Nisbett & others, 2012). This gap especially narrows in college, where African American and non-Latino White students often experience more similar environments than during the elementary and high school years (Myerson & others, 1998). Further, a recent study using the Stanford Binet Intelligence Scales found no differences in overall intellectual ability between non-Latino White and African American preschool children when the children were matched on age, gender, and parental education level (Dale & others, 2014). Nonetheless, a recent analysis concluded that the underrepresentation of African Americans in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) subjects and careers is linked teachers’ expectations that African American students have less innate talent in these fields than non-Latino Whites (Leslie & others, 2015).

One potential influence on intelligence test performance is  stereotype threat , the anxiety that one’s behavior might confirm a negative stereotype about one’s group (Grand, 2017; von Hippel, Kalokerinos, & Zacher, 2017; Williams & others, 2018). For example, when African Americans take an intelligence test, they may experience anxiety about confirming the old stereotype that Blacks are “intellectually inferior.” Research studies have confirmed the existence of stereotype threat (Lyons & others, 2018; Wegmann, 2017). Also, African American students do more poorly on standardized tests if they perceive that they are being evaluated. If they think the test doesn’t count, they perform as well as White students (Aronson, 2002). However, some critics argue that the extent to which stereotype threat explains the testing gap has been exaggerated (Sackett, Borneman, & Connelly, 2009).

Using Intelligence Tests Here are some cautions Page 290about IQ that can help you avoid the pitfalls of using information about a child’s intelligence in negative ways:

· Avoid stereotyping and expectations. A special concern is that the scores on an IQ test easily can lead to stereotypes and expectations about students. Sweeping generalizations are too often made on the basis of an IQ score. An IQ test should always be considered a measure of current performance. It is not a measure of fixed potential. Maturational changes and enriched environmental experiences can increase a student’s IQ score.

· Know that IQ is not a sole indicator of competence. Another concern about IQ tests involves their use as the main or sole assessment of competence. A high IQ is not the ultimate human value. As we have seen in this chapter, it is important to consider not only students’ intellectual competence in such areas as verbal skills but also their creative and practical skills.

· Use caution in interpreting an overall IQ score. In evaluating a child’s intelligence, it is wiser to think of intelligence as consisting of a number of domains. Keep in mind the different types of intelligence described by Sternberg and Gardner. Remember that by considering the different domains of intelligence you can find that every child has at least one area of strength.

developmental connection
Conditions, Diseases, and Disorders

Down syndrome is caused by the presence of an extra copy of chromosome 21. Connect to “Biological Beginnings.”


Intelligence tests have been used to discover indications of intellectual disability or intellectual giftedness, the extremes of intelligence. At times, intelligence tests have been misused for this purpose. Keeping in mind the theme that an intelligence test should not be used as the sole indicator of intellectual disability or giftedness, we will explore the nature of these intellectual extremes.

Intellectual Disability The most distinctive feature of intellectual disability (formerly called mental retardation) is inadequate intellectual functioning. Long before formal tests were developed to assess intelligence, individuals with an intellectual disability were identified by a lack of age-appropriate skills in learning and caring for themselves. Once intelligence tests were developed, they were used to identify the degree of intellectual disability. However, even individuals with an intellectual disability who have the same low IQ may have very different levels of functioning. One might be married, employed, and involved in the community and the other might require constant supervision in an institution. Such differences in social competence led psychologists to include deficits in adaptive behavior in their definition of intellectual disability.

Intellectual disability  is a condition of limited mental ability in which the individual (1) has a low IQ, usually below 70 on a traditional intelligence test; (2) has difficulty adapting to the demands of everyday life; and (3) first exhibits these characteristics by age 18 (Heward, Alber-Morgan, & Konrad, 2017). The age limit is included in the definition of intellectual disability because, for example, we don’t usually think of a college student who suffers massive brain damage in a car accident, resulting in an IQ of 60, as having an “intellectual disability.” The low IQ and low adaptiveness should be evident in childhood, not after normal functioning is interrupted by damage of some form (Burack & others, 2016). About 5 million Americans fit this definition of intellectual disability.

image32A child with Down syndrome. What causes a child to develop Down syndrome? In which major classification of intellectual disability does the condition fall?  ©Stockbyte/Veer

Some cases of intellectual disability have an organic cause.  Organic intellectual disability  describes a genetic disorder or a lower level of intellectual functioning caused by brain damage. Down syndrome is one form of organic intellectual disability, and it occurs when an extra chromosome is present. Other causes of organic intellectual disability include fragile X syndrome, an abnormality in the X chromosome that was discussed in “Biological Beginnings”; prenatal malformation; metabolic disorders; and diseases that affect the brain. Most people who suffer from organic intellectual disability have IQs between 0 and 50.

When no evidence of organic brain damage can be found, cases are labeled  cultural-familial intellectual disability . Individuals with this type of disability have IQs between 55 and 70. Psychologists suspect that this type of disability often results from growing up in a below-average intellectual environment. Children with this type of disability can be identified in schools, where they often fail, need tangible rewards (candy rather than praise), and are highly sensitive to what others expect of them. However, as adults, they are usually not noticeable, perhaps because adult settings don’t tax their cognitive skills as sorely. It may also be that they increase their intelligence as they move toward adulthood.

Giftedness There have always been people Page 291whose abilities and accomplishments outshine those of others—the whiz kid in class, the star athlete, the natural musician. People who are  gifted  have above-average intelligence (an IQ of 130 or higher) and/or superior talent for something. When it comes to programs for gifted students, most school systems select children who have intellectual superiority and academic aptitude, whereas children who are talented in the visual and performing arts (art, drama, dance), who demonstrate skill in athletics, or who have other special aptitudes tend to be overlooked (Olszewski-Kubilius & Thomson, 2013). There also are increasing calls to further widen the criteria for giftedness to include such factors as creativity and commitment (Sternberg, 2017c; Sternberg, 2018g; Sternberg & Kaufman, 2018a).

Estimates vary but indicate that approximately 6 to 10 percent of U.S. students are classified as gifted (National Association for Gifted Children, 2017). This percentage is likely conservative because it focuses more on children who are gifted intellectually and academically, often failing to include those who are gifted in creative thinking or the visual and performing arts (Ford, 2012, 2015a, b, 2016).

Characteristics What are the characteristics of children who are gifted? Despite speculation that giftedness is linked with having a mental disorder, no relation between giftedness and mental disorder has been found. Similarly, the idea that gifted children are maladjusted is a myth, as Lewis Terman (1925) found when he conducted an extensive study of 1,500 children whose Stanford-Binet IQs averaged 150. The children in Terman’s study were socially well adjusted, and many went on to become successful doctors, lawyers, professors, and scientists. Studies support the conclusion that gifted people tend to be more mature than others, have fewer emotional problems than average, and grow up in a positive family climate (Davidson, 2000). For example, a recent study revealed that parents and teachers identified elementary school children who are not gifted as having more emotional and behavioral risks than children who are gifted (Eklund & others, 2015). In this study, when children who are gifted did have problems, they were more likely to be internalized problems, such as anxiety and depression, than externalized problems such as acting out and high levels of aggression.

image33At age 2, art prodigy Alexandra Nechita (shown here as a teenager) colored in coloring books for hours and also took up pen and ink. She had no interest in dolls or friends. By age 5 she was using watercolors. Once she started school, she would start painting as soon as she got home. At the age of 8, in 1994, she saw the first public exhibit of her work. In succeeding years, working quickly and impulsively on canvases as large as 5 feet by 9 feet, she has completed hundreds of paintings, some of which sell for close to $100,000 apiece. As an adult she continues to paint—relentlessly and passionately. It is, she says, what she loves to do. What are some characteristics of children who are gifted?  ©Koichi Kamoshida/Newsmakers/Getty Images

Ellen Winner (1996) described three criteria that characterize gifted children, whether in art, music, or academic domains:

1. Precocity. Gifted children are precocious. They begin to master an area earlier than their peers. Learning in their domain is more effortless for them than for ordinary children. In most instances, these gifted children are precocious because they have an inborn high ability in a particular domain or domains.

2. Marching to their own drummer. Gifted children learn in a qualitatively different way from ordinary children. One way that they march to a different drummer is that they need minimal help, or scaffolding, from adults to learn. In many instances, they resist any kind of explicit instruction. They often make discoveries on their own and solve problems in unique ways.

3. A passion to master. Gifted children are driven to understand the domain in which they have high ability. They display an intense, obsessive interest and an ability to focus. They motivate themselves, says Winner, and do not need to be “pushed” by their parents.

Also, researchers have found that children who are gifted learn at a faster pace, process information more rapidly, are better at reasoning, use superior strategies, and monitor their understanding better than their nongifted counterparts (Sternberg & Kaufman, 2018a).

Nature-Nurture Is giftedness a product of heredity or environment? Likely both (Duggan & Friedman, 2014; Sternberg & Kaufman, 2018a). Individuals who are gifted recall that they had signs of high ability in a particular area at a very young age, prior to or at the beginning of formal training. This suggests the importance of innate ability in giftedness. However, researchers have also found that individuals with world-class status in the arts, mathematics, science, and sports all report strong family support and years of training and practice (Bloom, 1985). Deliberate practice is an important characteristic of individuals who become experts in a particular domain. For example, in one study the best musicians engaged in twice as much deliberate practice over their lives as did the least successful ones (Ericsson, Krampe, & Tesch-Romer, 1993).

developmental connection
Nature Versus Nurture

The epigenetic view emphasizes that development is an ongoing, bidirectional interchange between heredity and environment. Connect to “Biological Beginnings.”

Domain-Specific Giftedness and Development Individuals who are highly gifted are typically not gifted in many domains, and research on giftedness is increasingly focused on domain-specific developmental trajectories (Sternberg & Kaufman, 2018a; Winner, 2014). During the childhood years, the Page 292domain in which individuals are gifted usually emerges. Thus, at some point in the childhood years the child who is to become a gifted artist or the child who is to become a gifted mathematician begins to show expertise in that domain. Regarding domain-specific giftedness, software genius Bill Gates (1998), the founder of Microsoft and one of the world’s richest persons, commented that when you are good at something you have to resist the urge to think that you will be good at everything. Gates says that because he has been so successful at software development, people expect him to be brilliant in other domains where he is far from being a genius.

Identifying an individual’s domain-specific talent and providing individually appropriate and optional educational opportunities need to be accomplished at the very latest by adolescence (Keating, 2009). During adolescence, individuals who are talented become less reliant on parental support and increasingly pursue their own interests.

Education of Children Who Are Gifted An increasing number of experts argue that the education of children who are gifted in the United States requires a significant overhaul (Renzulli, 2017; Sternberg & Kaufman, 2018a). Ellen Winner (1996, 2009, 2014) argues that too often children who are gifted are socially isolated and underchallenged in the classroom. It is not unusual for them to be ostracized and labeled “nerds” or “geeks.” Many eminent adults report that school was a negative experience for them, that they were bored and sometimes knew more than their teachers (Bloom, 1985). Winner argues that American education will benefit when standards are raised for all children. When some children are still underchallenged, she recommends that they be allowed to attend advanced classes in their domain of exceptional ability. Some especially precocious middle school students may benefit from taking college classes in their area of expertise. For example, Bill Gates took college math classes at 13; Yo-Yo Ma, a famous cellist, graduated from high school at 15 and attended Juilliard School of Music in New York City.

image34A young Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft and now one of the world’s richest people. Like many highly gifted students, Gates was not especially fond of school. He hacked a computer security system when he was 13, and as a high school student he was allowed to take some college math classes. He dropped out of Harvard University and began developing a plan for what was to become Microsoft Corporation. What are some ways that schools can enrich the education of such highly talented students as Gates to make it a more challenging, interesting, and meaningful experience?  ©Doug Wilson/Corbis/Getty Images

A final concern is that African American, Latino, and Native American children are underrepresented in gifted programs (Ford, 2012, 2014, 2015a, b, 2016; Mills, 2015). Much of the underrepresentation involves the lower test scores for these children compared with non-Latino White and Asian American children, which may reflect test bias and fewer opportunities to develop language skills such as vocabulary and comprehension (Ford, 2012, 2014, 2015a, b, 2016).

Review Connect Reflect

LG3 Explain cognitive changes in middle and late childhood.


· What characterizes Piaget’s stage of concrete operational thought? What are some contributions and criticisms of Piaget?

· How do children process information in the middle and late childhood years?

· What is intelligence, and how is it assessed? What characterizes links between neuroscience and intelligence? What determines individual and group differences in IQ scores?

· What are the key characteristics of intellectual disability and giftedness?


· In discussing memory, thinking, and intelligence, the topic of recommended educational strategies often came up. Compare these recommendations with those you learned earlier.

Reflect Your Own Personal Journey of Life

· A CD-ROM, Children’s IQ and Achievement Test, now lets parents test their child’s IQ and identify how well the child is performing in relation to his or her grade in school. Would you want to personally test your own child’s IQ? What might be some problems with parents giving their children an IQ test?

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4 Language Development

LG4 Discuss language development in middle and late childhood.

Vocabulary, Grammar, and Metalinguistic Awareness



Second-Language Learning and Bilingual Education

Children gain new skills as they enter school that make it possible for them to learn to read and write (Fox & Alexander, 2017; Graham & Harris, 2017). These skills include increased use of language to talk about things that are not physically present, learning what a word is, and learning how to recognize and talk about sounds. Children also learn the alphabetic principle—that the letters of the alphabet represent sounds of the language.


During middle and late childhood, changes occur in the way children’s mental vocabulary is organized. When asked to say the first word that comes to mind when they hear a word, preschool children typically provide a word that often follows the word in a sentence. For example, when asked to respond to dog, the young child may say “barks,” or to the word eat respond with “lunch.” At about 7 years of age, children begin to respond with a word that is the same part of speech as the stimulus word. For example, a child may now respond to the word dog with “cat” or “horse.” To eat, they now might say “drink.” This is evidence that children now have begun to categorize their vocabulary by parts of speech.

image35 How do vocabulary, grammar, and metalinguistic awareness change in middle and late childhood?  ©Richard Howard Photography

The process of categorizing becomes easier as children increase their vocabulary (Clark, 2012, 2017). Children’s vocabulary increases from an average of about 14,000 words at age 6 to an average of about 40,000 words by age 11.

Children make similar advances in grammar (Clark, 2017). During the elementary school years, children’s improvement in logical reasoning and analytical skills helps them understand such constructions as the appropriate use of comparatives (shorter, deeper) and subjunctives (“If you were president . . .”). During the elementary school years, children become increasingly able to understand and use complex grammar, such as the following sentence: The boy who kissed his mother wore a hat. They also learn to use language in a more connected way, producing connected discourse. They become able to relate sentences to one another to produce descriptions, definitions, and narratives that make sense. Children must be able to do these things orally before they can be expected to deal with them in written assignments.

These advances in vocabulary and grammar during the elementary school years are accompanied by the development of  metalinguistic awareness , which is knowledge about language, such as understanding what a preposition is or being able to discuss the sounds of a language (Schiff, Nuri Ben-Shushan, & Ben-Artzi, 2017; Tong, Deacon, & Cain, 2014; Yeon, Bae, & Joshi, 2017). Metalinguistic awareness allows children “to think about their language, understand what words are, and even define them” (Berko Gleason, 2009, p. 4). It improves considerably during the elementary school years (Pan & Uccelli, 2009). Defining words becomes a regular part of classroom discourse, and children increase their knowledge of syntax as they study and talk about the components of sentences such as subjects and verbs (Crain, 2012). And reading also feeds into metalinguistic awareness as children try to comprehend written text.

Children also make progress in understanding how to use language in culturally appropriate ways—a process called pragmatics (Beguin, 2016; Bryant, 2012). By the time they enter adolescence, most children know the rules for using language in everyday contexts—that is, what is appropriate and inappropriate to say.


Before learning to read, children learn to use language to talk about things that are not present; they learn what a word is; and they learn how to recognize sounds and talk about them. Children who begin elementary school with a robust vocabulary have an advantage when it comes to learning to read Page 294. Vocabulary development plays an important role in reading comprehension (Vacca & others, 2018).

How should children be taught to read? For many years debate focuses on the whole-language approach versus the phonics approach (Fox & Alexander, 2017; Reutzel & Cooter, 2019).

The  whole-language approach  stresses that reading instruction should parallel children’s natural language learning. In some whole-language classes, beginning readers are taught to recognize whole words or even entire sentences, and to use the context of what they are reading to guess at the meaning of words. Reading materials that support the whole-language approach are whole and meaningful—that is, children are given material in its complete form, such as stories and poems, so that they learn to understand language’s communicative function. Reading is connected with listening and writing skills. Although there are variations in whole-language programs, most share the premise that reading should be integrated with other skills and subjects, such as science and social studies, and that it should focus on real-world material. Thus, a class might read newspapers, magazines, or books, and then write about and discuss them.

image36This teacher is helping a student sound out words. Researchers have found that phonics instruction is a key aspect of teaching students to read, especially beginning readers and students with weak reading skills.  ©Gideon Mendel/Corbis/Getty Images

In contrast, the  phonics approach  emphasizes that reading instruction should teach basic rules for translating written symbols into sounds. Early phonics-centered reading instruction should involve simplified materials. Only after children have learned correspondence rules that relate spoken phonemes to the alphabet letters that are used to represent them should they be given complex reading materials, such as books and poems (Cunningham, 2017; Fox & Alexander, 2017; Leu & Kinzer, 2017).

Which approach is better? Research suggests that children can benefit from both approaches, but instruction in phonics needs to be emphasized (Leu & Kinzer, 2017; Reutzel & Cooter, 2019; Tompkins, 2018). An increasing number of experts in the field of reading now conclude that direct instruction in phonics is a key aspect of learning to read (Cunningham, 2017; Fox & Alexander, 2017).

Beyond the phonics/whole language issue in learning to read, becoming a good reader includes learning to read fluently (Breen & others, 2016). Many beginning or poor readers do not recognize words automatically. Their processing capacity is consumed by the demands of word recognition, so they have less capacity to devote to comprehension of groupings of words as phrases or sentences. As their processing of words and passages becomes more automatic, it is said that their reading becomes more fluent (Stevens, Walker, & Vaughn, 2017). Also, children’s vocabulary development plays an important role in their reading comprehension (Vacca & others, 2018). And metacognitive strategies, such as learning to monitor one’s reading progress, getting the gist of what is being read, and summarizing also are important in becoming a good reader (Schiff, Nuri Ben-Shushan, & Ben-Artzi, 2017).


As they begin to write, children often invent spellings. Parents and teachers should encourage children’s early writing but not be overly concerned about the formation of letters or spelling. Corrections of spelling and printing should be selective and made in positive ways that do not discourage the child’s writing and spontaneity.

Like becoming a good reader, becoming a good writer takes many years and lots of practice (Graham & Harris, 2017; Tompkins, 2019). Children should be given many writing opportunities. As their language and cognitive skills improve with good instruction, so will their writing skills. For example, developing a more sophisticated understanding of syntax and grammar serves as an underpinning for better writing. So do cognitive skills such as organization and logical reasoning. Through the course of the school years, students develop increasingly sophisticated methods of organizing their ideas.

The metacognitive strategies involved in being a competent writer are linked with those required to be a competent reader because the writing process involves competent reading and rereading during composition and revision (Graham & Harris, 2018; Harris & others, 2018). Further, researchers have found that strategy Page 295instruction involving planning, drafting, revising, and editing improves older elementary school children’s metacognitive awareness and writing competence (Graham, Rouse, & Harris, 2018; Harris & Graham, 2018).

Monitoring one’s writing progress is especially important in becoming a good writer (Graham & Harris, 2018; Graham & others, 2018; Harris & Graham, 2018). This includes being receptive to feedback and applying what one learns in writing one paper to making the next paper better.

Major concerns about students’ writing competence are increasingly being voiced (Graham, 2017, 2018a, b; Tompkins, 2019). One study revealed that 70 to 75 percent of U.S. students in grades 4 through 12 are low-achieving writers (Persky, Dane, & Jin, 2003). College instructors report that 50 percent of high school graduates are not prepared for college-level writing (Achieve, Inc., 2005).


Are there sensitive periods in learning a second language? That is, if individuals want to learn a second language, how important is the age at which they begin to learn it? What is the best way to teach children who come from homes in which English is not the primary language?

Second-Language Learning For many years, it was claimed that if individuals did not learn a second language prior to puberty they would never reach native-language learners’ proficiency in the second language (Johnson & Newport, 1991). However, recent research indicates a more complex conclusion: Sensitive periods likely vary across different language systems (Thomas & Johnson, 2008). Thus, for late language learners, such as adolescents and adults, new vocabulary is easier to learn than new sounds or new grammar (Neville, 2006). For example, children’s ability to pronounce words with a native-like accent in a second language typically decreases with age, with an especially sharp drop occurring after the age of about 10 to 12. Also, adults tend to learn a second language faster than children, but their final level of second-language attainment is not as high as children’s. And the way children and adults learn a second language differs somewhat. Compared with adults, children are less sensitive to feedback, less likely to use explicit strategies, and more likely to learn a second language from large amounts of input (Thomas & Johnson, 2008).

Students in the United States are far behind their counterparts in many developed countries in learning a second language. For example, in Russia, schools have 10 grades, called forms, which roughly correspond to the 12 grades in American schools. Russian children begin school at age 7 and begin learning English in the third form. Because of this emphasis on teaching English, most Russian citizens under the age of 40 today are able to speak at least some English. The United States is the only technologically advanced Western nation that does not have a national foreign language requirement at the high school level, even for students in rigorous academic programs.

Some aspects of children’s ability to learn a second language transfer to success in other areas (Bialystok, 2017). Children who are fluent in two languages perform better than their single-language counterparts on tests of control of attention, concept formation, analytical reasoning, inhibition, cognitive flexibility, cognitive complexity, and cognitive monitoring (Bialystok, 2001, 2007, 2011, 2014, 2015, 2017; Bialystok & Craik, 2010; Sullivan & others, 2014). Recent research also documented that bilingual children are better at theory of mind tasks (Rubio-Fernandez, 2017). They also are more conscious of the structure of spoken and written language and better at noticing errors of grammar and meaning, skills that benefit their reading ability (Bialystok, 1997; Kuo & Anderson, 2012). A recent study of 6- to 10-year-olds found that early bilingual exposure was a key factor in bilingual children outperforming monolingual children on phonological awareness and word learning (Jasinska & Petitto, 2018).

Thus, overall, bilingualism is linked to positive outcomes for children’s language and cognitive development. (Antovich & Graf Estes, 2018; Singh & others, 2017; Wermelinger, Gampe, & Daum, 2017; Yow & others, 2018). An especially important developmental question that many parents of infants and young children Page 296have asked is whether they should teach them two languages simultaneously, or whether this might confuse them. The answer is that teaching infants and young children two languages simultaneously (as when a mother’s native language is English and her husband’s is Spanish) has numerous benefits and few drawbacks (Bialystok, 2014, 2015, 2017).

Research indicates that bilingual children do have a smaller vocabulary in each language than monolingual children (Bialystok, 2011). Most children who learn two languages are not exposed to the same quantity and quality of each language. However, bilingual children do not show delays in the rate at which they acquire language overall (Hoff, 2016). In a recent study, by 4 years of age children who continued to learn Spanish and English languages had a total vocabulary growth that was greater than that of monolingual children (Hoff & others, 2014).

image37A first- and second-grade bilingual English-Cantonese teacher instructing students in Chinese in Oakland, California. What have researchers found about the effectiveness of bilingual education?  ©Elizabeth Crews

However, a different type of bilingualism occurs when immigrant children have used only their native language at home and then must learn the main language of a new country at school. For example, in the United States, many immigrant children go from being monolingual in their home language to bilingual in that language and in English, only to end up being monolingual speakers of English. This is called subtractive bilingualism, and it can have negative effects on children, who often become ashamed of their home language.

Bilingual Education A current controversy related to bilingualism involves the millions of U.S. children who come from homes in which English is not the primary language and then must learn English in school (Diaz-Rico, 2018; Echevarria, Vogt, & Short, 2017; Esposito & others, 2018; Peregoy & Boyle, 2017). What is the best way to teach these English language learners (ELLs), many of whom in the United States are from immigrant families living in poverty?

ELLs have been taught in one of two main ways: (1) instruction in English only, or (2) a dual-language (formerly called bilingual) approach that combines instruction in their home language and English (Diaz-Rico, 2018; Echevarria, Vogt, & Short, 2017). In a dual-language approach, instruction is given in both the ELL child’s home language and English for varying amounts of time at certain grade levels. One of the arguments for the dual-language approach is the research discussed earlier demonstrating that bilingual children have more advanced information-processing skills than monolingual children (Genesee & Lindholm-Leary, 2012).

If a dual-language instructional strategy is used, too often it has been thought that immigrant children need only one or two years of this type of instruction. However, in general it takes immigrant children approximately three to five years to develop speaking proficiency and seven years to develop reading proficiency in English (Hakuta, Butler, & Witt, 2000). Also, immigrant children vary in their ability to learn English (Diaz-Rico, 2018; Echevarria, Vogt, & Short, 2017). Children who come from lower socioeconomic backgrounds have more difficulty than those from higher socioeconomic backgrounds (Hakuta, 2001; Hoff & Place, 2013). Thus, especially for immigrant children from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, more years of dual-language instruction may be needed than they currently are receiving.

What have researchers found regarding outcomes of ELL programs? Drawing conclusions about the effectiveness of ELL programs is difficult because of variations across programs in the number of years they are in effect, type of instruction, quality of schooling other than ELL instruction, teachers, children, and other factors. Further, no effective experiments have been conducted that compare bilingual education with English-only education in the United States (Snow & Kang, 2006). Some experts have concluded that the quality of instruction is more important in determining outcomes than the language in which it is delivered (Lesaux & Siegel, 2003).

Nonetheless, other experts, such as Kenji Hakuta (2001, 2005), support the combined home language and English approach because (1) children have difficulty learning a subject when it is taught in a language they do not understand; and (2) when both languages are integrated in the classroom, children learn the second language more readily and participate more actively. In support of Hakuta’s view, most large-scale studies have found that the academic achievement of ELLs is higher in dual-language programs than English-only programs (Genesee & Lindholm-Leary, 2012). To read about the work of one dual-language teacher, see  Connecting with Careers .

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connecting with careers

Salvador Tamayo, Teacher of English Language Learners

Salvador Tamayo is an ELL fifth-grade teacher at Turner Elementary School in West Chicago. He recently was given a National Educator Award by the Milken Family Foundation for his work in educating ELLs. Tamayo is especially adept at integrating technology into his ELL classes. He and his students have created several award-winning Web sites about the West Chicago City Museum, the local Latino community, and the history of West Chicago. His students also developed an “I Want to Be an American Citizen” Web site to assist family and community members in preparing for the U.S. Citizenship Test. Tamayo also teaches an ELL class at Wheaton College.

image38Salvador Tamayo works with bilingual education students.  Courtesy of Salvador Tamayo

For more information about what elementary school teachers do, see the Careers in Life-Span Development appendix.

Review Connect Reflect

LG4 Discuss language development in middle and late childhood.


· What are some changes in vocabulary and grammar in the middle and late childhood years?

· What controversy characterizes how to teach children to read?

· What characterizes children’s writing skills and their development?

· What is dual-language instruction? What issues are involved in this approach? What characterizes bilingual education?


· Earlier in the chapter you learned about metacognition. Compare that with metalinguistic awareness.

Reflect Your Own Personal Journey of Life

· Did you learn a second language as a child? If you did, do you think it was beneficial to you? If so, how? If you did not learn a second language as a child, do you wish you had? Why or why not?

topical connections looking forward

The slow physical growth of middle and late childhood gives way to the dramatic changes of puberty in early adolescence. Significant changes also occur in the adolescent’s brain in which earlier maturation of the amygdala (emotion processing) and later maturation of the prefrontal cortex (decision making, self-regulation) are likely linked to increases in risk-taking and sensation seeking. Sexual development is a normal aspect of adolescence, but having sexual intercourse early in adolescence is associated with a number of problems. Adolescence is a critical juncture in health because many poor health habits begin in adolescence. Despite recent declines, the United States has one of the highest rates of illicit drug use of any developed nation. Adolescent thought is more abstract, idealistic, and logical than children’s. The transition from elementary school to middle school or junior high is difficult for many individuals because it coincides with so many physical, cognitive, and socioemotional changes in development.

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reach your learning goals
Physical and Cognitive Development in Middle and Late Childhood
1 Physical Changes and Health

LG1 Discuss physical changes and health in middle and late childhood.

Body Growth and  Change

The Brain

Motor Development


Health, Illness, and  Disease

· The period of middle and late childhood involves slow, consistent growth. During this period, children grow an average of 2 to 3 inches a year. Muscle mass and strength gradually increase. Among the most pronounced changes in body growth and proportion are decreases in head circumference and waist circumference in relation to body height.

· Changes in the brain in middle and late childhood include advances in functioning in the prefrontal cortex, which are reflected in improved attention, reasoning, and cognitive control. During middle and late childhood, less diffusion and more focal activation occurs in the prefrontal cortex, a change that is associated with an increase in cognitive control.

· During middle and late childhood, motor development becomes much smoother and more coordinated. Children gain greater control over their bodies and can sit and pay attention for longer periods of time. However, their lives should include abundant physical activity.

· Increased myelination of the central nervous system is reflected in improved motor skills. Improved fine motor skills appear in the form of handwriting development. Boys are usually better at gross motor skills, girls at fine motor skills.

· Most American children do not get nearly enough exercise. Parents play an especially important role in guiding children to increase their exercise. Heavy television viewing and computer use are linked to lower activity levels in children.

· For the most part, middle and late childhood is a time of excellent health. The most common cause of severe injury and death in childhood is motor vehicle accidents. Being overweight or obese is an increasingly prevalent child health problem, raising the risk for many medical and psychological problems. Cardiovascular disease is uncommon in children, but the precursors to adult cardiovascular disease are often already apparent during childhood. Cancer is the second leading cause of death in children (after accidents). Leukemia is the most common childhood cancer.

2 Children with Disabilities

LG2 Identify children with different types of disabilities and discuss issues in educating them.

The Scope of Disabilities

Educational Issues

· Approximately 14 percent of U.S. children from 3 to 21 years of age receive special education or related services. A child with a learning disability has difficulty in learning that involves understanding or using spoken or written language, and the difficulty can appear in listening, thinking, reading, writing, and spelling. A learning disability also may involve difficulty in doing mathematics. To be classified as a learning disability, the learning problem is not primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor disabilities; intellectual disabilities; emotional disorders; or due to environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage.

· Dyslexia is a category of learning disabilities that involves a severe impairment in the ability to read and spell. Dysgraphia is a learning disability that involves difficulty in handwriting. Dyscalculia is a learning disability that involves difficulties in math computation.

· Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a disability in which individuals consistently show problems in one or more of these areas: (1) inattention, (2) hyperactivity, and (3) impulsivity. ADHD has been increasingly diagnosed. Emotional and behavioral disorders consist of serious, persistent problems that involve relationships, aggression, depression, fears associated with personal or school matters, as well as other inappropriate socioemotional characteristics.

· Autism spectrum disorders Page 299(ASD), also called pervasive developmental disorders, range from autistic disorder, a severe developmental disorder, to Asperger syndrome, a relatively mild autism spectrum disorder. The current consensus is that autism is a brain dysfunction involving abnormalities in brain structure and neurotransmitters. Children with autism spectrum disorders are characterized by problems in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication, and repetitive behaviors.

· In 1975, Public Law 94-142, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, required that all children with disabilities be given a free, appropriate public education. This law was renamed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 1990 and updated in 2004. IDEA includes requirements that children with disabilities receive an individualized education plan (IEP), which is a written plan that spells out a program tailored to the child and requires that they be educated in the least restrictive environment (LRE), which is a setting that is as similar as possible to the one in which children without disabilities are educated. The term inclusion means educating children with disabilities full-time in the regular classroom.

3 Cognitive Changes

LG3 Explain cognitive changes in middle and late childhood.

Piaget’s Cognitive Developmental Theory

Information Processing


Extremes of Intelligence

· Piaget said that the stage of concrete operational thought characterizes children from about 7 to 11 years of age. During this stage, children are capable of concrete operations, conservation, classification, seriation, and transitivity. Critics argue that some abilities emerge earlier than Piaget thought, that elements of a stage do not appear at the same time, and that education and culture have more influence on development than Piaget predicted. Neo-Piagetians place more emphasis on how children process information, their use of strategies, speed of information processing, and division of cognitive problems into more precise steps.

· Long-term memory increases in middle and late childhood. Working memory is an important memory process. Knowledge and expertise influence memory. Changes in autobiographical memory occur in middle and late childhood. Strategies can be used by children to improve their memory, and it is important for adults who instruct children to encourage children’s strategy use. Fuzzy trace theory has been proposed to explain developmental changes in memory.

· Among the key dimensions of executive function that are important in cognitive development and school success are self-control/inhibition, working memory, and flexibility.

· Critical thinking involves thinking reflectively and productively, as well as evaluating available evidence. Mindfulness is an important aspect of critical thinking. A special concern is the lack of emphasis on critical thinking in many schools.

· Creative thinking is the ability to think in novel and unusual ways and to come up with unique solutions to problems. Guilford distinguished between convergent and divergent thinking. A number of strategies can be used to encourage children’s creative thinking, including brainstorming.

· Metacognition is knowing about knowing. Many metacognitive studies have focused on metamemory. Pressley views the key to education as helping students learn a rich repertoire of strategies for problem solving.

· Intelligence consists of problem-solving skills and the ability to adapt to and learn from life’s everyday experiences. Interest in intelligence often focuses on individual differences and assessment. Widely used intelligence tests today include the Stanford-Binet tests and Wechsler scales. Results on these tests may be reported in terms of an overall IQ or in terms of performance on specific areas of the tests.

· Sternberg proposed that intelligence comes in three main forms: analytical, creative, and practical. Gardner proposes that there are eight types of intelligence: verbal, mathematical, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, musical, and naturalist. The multiple-intelligence approaches have expanded our conception of intelligence, but critics argue that the research base for these approaches is not well established.

· IQ scores are influenced by both genetics and characteristics of the environment. Parents, home environments, schools, and intervention programs can influence these scores. Intelligence test scores have Page 300risen considerably around the world in recent decades. This phenomenon is called the Flynn effect, and it supports the role of environment in intelligence. Group differences in IQ scores may reflect many influences, including cultural bias. Tests may be biased against certain groups that are not familiar with a standard form of English, with the content tested, or with the testing situation. Tests are likely to reflect the values and experience of the dominant culture.

· Intellectual disability involves a low level of intellectual functioning as well as difficulty adapting to the demands of everyday life, with these characteristics occurring prior to age 18. One classification of intellectual disability distinguishes between organic and cultural-familial types.

· Individuals who are gifted have above-average intelligence (an IQ of 130 or higher) and/or superior talent for something. Three characteristics of gifted children are precocity, marching to their own drummer, and a passion to master their domain. Giftedness is likely a consequence of both heredity and environment. Developmental changes characterize giftedness, and increasingly the domain-specific aspect of giftedness is emphasized. Concerns exist about the education of children who are gifted.

4 Language Development

LG4 Discuss language development in middle and late childhood.

Vocabulary, Grammar, and Metalinguistic Awareness



Second-Language Learning and Bilingual Education

· Children gradually become more analytical and logical in their approach to words and grammar. In terms of grammar, children now better understand comparatives and subjectives. They become increasingly able to use complex grammar and produce narratives that make sense. Improvements in metalinguistic awareness—knowledge about language—are evident during the elementary school years as children increasingly define words, expand their knowledge of syntax, and understand better how to use language in culturally appropriate ways.

· A current debate in reading focuses on the phonics approach versus the whole-language approach. The phonics approach advocates phonetics instruction and giving children simplified materials. The whole-language approach stresses that reading instruction should parallel children’s natural language learning and that children should be given whole-language materials such as books and poems. Three key processes in learning to read a printed word are being aware of sound units in words, decoding words, and accessing word meaning.

· Advances in children’s language and cognitive development provide the underpinnings for improved writing. Major concerns are increasingly being voiced about children’s writing competence. Teachers play a key role in improving children’s writing skills.

· Recent research indicates the complexity of determining whether there are sensitive periods in learning a second language. The dual-language approach (formerly called “bilingual”) aims to teach academic subjects to immigrant children in their native languages while gradually adding English instruction. Researchers have found that the dual-language approach does not interfere with performance in either language.

key terms

Asperger syndrome

attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

autism spectrum disorders  (ASD)

autistic disorder


convergent thinking

creative thinking

critical thinking

cultural-familial intellectual disability

culture-fair tests

divergent thinking





emotional and behavioral disorders

fuzzy trace theory



individual differences

individualized education plan (IEP)

intellectual disability


intelligence quotient (IQ)

learning disability

least restrictive environment (LRE)

long-term memory

mental age (MA)


metalinguistic awareness



normal distribution

organic intellectual disability

phonics approach


stereotype threat



triarchic theory of intelligence

whole-language approach

working memory

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key people

Teresa Amabile

Alan Baddeley

Patricia Bauer

Alfred Binet

Charles Brainerd

Nathan Brody

Jacqueline Brooks

Martin Brooks

Adele Diamond

James Flynn

Howard Gardner

J. P. Guilford

Mark Johnson

James Kauffman

Ellen Langer

Jean Piaget

Michael Pressley

Valerie Reyna

Robert Roeser

Theophile Simon

Robert J. Sternberg

Lewis Terman

David Wechsler

Ellen Winner

apter 10
chapter outline

1 Emotional and Personality Development

Learning Goal 1 Discuss emotional and personality development in middle and late childhood.

The Self

Emotional Development

Moral Development


2 Families

Learning Goal 2 Describe developmental changes in parent-child relationships, parents as managers, attachment in families, and stepfamilies.

Developmental Changes in Parent-Child Relationships

Parents as Managers

Attachment in Families


3 Peers

Learning Goal 3 Identify changes in peer relationships in middle and late childhood.

Developmental Changes

Peer Status

Social Cognition



4 Schools

Learning Goal 4 Characterize aspects of schooling in children’s development in middle and late childhood.

Contemporary Approaches to Student Learning

Socioeconomic Status, Ethnicity, and Culture

image39 ©Will & Deni McIntyre/Corbis/Getty Images

In The Shame of the Nation, Jonathan Kozol (2005) Page 303described his visits to 60 U.S. schools in urban low-income areas in 11 states. He saw many schools in which minorities totaled 80 to 90 percent of the student population. Kozol observed numerous inequities—unkempt classrooms, hallways, and restrooms; inadequate textbooks and supplies; and lack of resources. He also saw teachers mainly instructing students to memorize material by rote, especially as preparation for mandated tests, rather than stimulating them to engage in higher-level thinking. Kozol also frequently observed teachers using threatening disciplinary tactics to control the classroom.

image40 What are some of the challenges faced by children growing up in the South Bronx?  ©Andy Levin/Science Source

However, some teachers Kozol observed were effective in educating children in these undesirable conditions. At P.S. 30 in the South Bronx, Mr. Bedrock teaches fifth grade. One student in his class, Serafina, recently lost her mother to AIDS. When author Jonathan Kozol visited the class, he was told that two other children had taken the role of “allies in the child’s struggle for emotional survival” (Kozol, 2005, p. 291). Textbooks are in short supply for the class, and the social studies text is so out of date it claims that Ronald Reagan is the country’s president. But Mr. Bedrock told Kozol that it’s a “wonderful” class this year. About their teacher, 56-year-old Mr. Bedrock, one student said, “‘He’s getting old, . . . but we love him anyway’” (p. 292). Kozol observed the students in Mr. Bedrock’s class to be orderly, interested, and engaged.

topical connections looking back

In early childhood, according to Erikson, young children are in the stage of initiative versus guilt. Parents continue to play an important role in their development, and an authoritative parenting style is most likely to have positive outcomes for children. In early childhood, peer relations begin to take on a more significant role as children’s social worlds widen. Play has a special place in young children’s lives and is an important context for both cognitive and socioemotional development.

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