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8.1: Chapter 16- Physical Development in Middle Childhood

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    Chapter 16 Learning Objectives

    • Summarize the overall physical growth
    • Describe the changes in brain maturation
    • Describe the positive effects of sports
    • Describe reasons for a lack of participation in youth sports
    • Explain current trends regarding being overweight in childhood, the negative consequences of excess weight, the lack of recognition of being overweight, and interventions to normalize weight

    Overall Physical Growth: Rates of growth generally slow during these years. Typically, a child will gain about 5-7 pounds a year and grow about 2-3 inches per year (CDC, 2000). They also tend to slim down and gain muscle strength and lung capacity making it possible to engage in strenuous physical activity for long periods of time. The beginning of the growth spurt, which occurs prior to puberty, begins two years earlier for females than males. The mean age for the beginning of the growth spurt for girls is nine, while for boys it is eleven. Children of this age tend to sharpen their abilities to perform both gross motor skills, such as riding a bike, and fine motor skills, such as cutting their fingernails. In gross motor skills (involving large muscles) boys typically outperform girls, while with fine motor skills (small muscles) girls outperform the boys. These improvements in motor skills are related to brain growth and experience during this developmental period.

    Brain Growth: Two major brain growth spurts occur during middle/late childhood (Spreen, Riser, & Edgell, 1995). Between ages 6 and 8, significant improvements in fine motor skills and eye-hand coordination are noted. Then between 10 and 12 years of age, the frontal lobes become more developed and improvements in logic, planning, and memory are evident (van der Molen & Molenaar, 1994). Myelination is one factor responsible for these growths. From age 6 to 12, the nerve cells in the association areas of the brain, that is those areas where sensory, motor, and intellectual functioning connect, become almost completely myelinated (Johnson, 2005). This myelination contributes to increases in information processing speed and the child’s reaction time. The hippocampus, responsible for transferring information from the short-term to long- term memory, also show increases in myelination resulting in improvements in memory functioning (Rolls, 2000). Children in middle to late childhood are also better able to plan, coordinate activity using both left and right hemispheres of the brain, and to control emotional outbursts. Paying attention is also improved as the prefrontal cortex matures (Markant & Thomas, 2013).

    Sports

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    children. The U. S. Soccer Federation recently advised coaches to reduce the amount of drilling engaged in during practice and to allow children to play more freely and to choose their own positions. The hope is that this will build on their love of the game and foster their natural talents.

    • Higher levels of satisfaction with family and overall quality of life in children
    • Improved physical and emotional development
    • Better academic performance

    Figure 5.2

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    Figure 5.3 Percent of Students Participating in Organized Sports, by Gender, Race, and Ethnicity

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    Finally, Sabo and Veliz asked children who had dropped out of organized sports why they left. For both girls and boys, the number one answer was that it was no longer any fun (see Table 5.1). According to the Sport Policy and Research Collaborative (SPARC) (2013), almost 1 in 3 children drop out of organized sports, and while there are many factors involved in the decisions to drop out, one suggestion has been the lack of training that coaches of children’s sports receive may be contributing to this attrition (Barnett, Smoll & Smith, 1992). Several studies have found that when coaches receive proper training, the drop-out rate is about 5% instead of the usual 30% (Fraser-Thomas, Côté , & Deakin, 2005; SPARC, 2013).

    Table 5.1 Top Reasons Dropped Out or Stopped Playing Organized/Team Sports

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    Welcome to the world of esports: According to Discover Esports (2017), esports is a form of competition with the medium being video games. Players use computers or specific video game consoles to play video games against each other. In addition to playing themselves, children my just watch others play the video games. The recent SPARC (2016) report on the “State of Play” in the United States highlights a disturbing trend. One in four children between the ages of 5 and 16 rate playing computer games with their friends as a form of exercise. Over half of males and about 20% of females, aged 12-19, say they are fans of esports.

    Physical Education: For many children, physical education in school is a key component in introducing children to sports. After years of schools cutting back on physical education programs, there has been a turn around, prompted by concerns over childhood obesity and the related health issues. Despite these changes, currently only the state of Oregon and the District of Columbia meet PE guidelines of a minimum of 150 minutes per week of physical activity in elementary school and 225 minutes in middle school (SPARC, 2016).

    Childhood Obesity

    harmful substances that can impair its functioning. Another important executive functioning skill is controlling impulses and delaying gratification. Children who are overweight show less inhibitory control than normal weight children, which may make it more difficult for them to avoid unhealthy foods (Lu, 2016). Overall, being overweight as a child increases the risk for cognitive decline as one ages.

    Figure 5.4 Being Overweight can be a Lifelong Struggle

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    children (Lu, 2016). Parents should take caution against emphasizing diet alone to avoid the development of any obsession about dieting that can lead to eating disorders. Instead, increasing a child’s activity level is most helpful.

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    Lifespan Development: A Psychological Perspective Second Edition by Martha Lally and Suzanne Valentine-French under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 unported license.


    This page titled 8.1: Chapter 16- Physical Development in Middle Childhood is shared under a not declared license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Susan C. Tyler.

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