8.3: Chapter 18- Psychosocial Development in Middle Childhood
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Chapter 18 Learning Objectives
- Describe Erikson’s fourth stage of industry vs. inferiority
- Describe the changes in self-concept, self-esteem, and self-efficacy
- Explain Kohlberg’s stages of moral development
- Describe the importance of peers, the stages of friendships, peer acceptance, and the consequences of peer acceptance
- Describe bullying, cyberbullying and the consequences of bullying
- Identify the types of families where children reside
- Identify the five family tasks
- Explain the consequences of divorce on children
- Describe the effects of cohabitation and remarriage on children
- Describe the characteristics and developmental stages of blended families
Erikson: Industry vs. Inferiority
Kohlberg’s Stages of Moral Development
A man’s wife is dying of cancer and there is only one drug that can save her. The only place to get the drug is at the store of a pharmacist who is known to overcharge people for drugs. The man can only pay $1,000, but the pharmacist wants $2,000, and refuses to sell it to him for less, or to let him pay later. Desperate, the man later breaks into the pharmacy and steals the medicine. Should he have done that? Was it right or wrong? Why? (Kohlberg, 1984)
Level One-Preconventional Morality: In stage one, moral reasoning is based on concepts of punishment. The child believes that if the consequence for an action is punishment, then the action was wrong. In the second stage, the child bases his or her thinking on self-interest and reward. “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.” The youngest subjects seemed to answer based on what would happen to the man as a result of the act. For example, they might say the man should not break into the pharmacy because the pharmacist might find him and beat him. Or they might say that the man should break in and steal the drug and his wife will give him a big kiss. Right or wrong, both decisions were based on what would physically happen to the man as a result of the act. This is a self-centered approach to moral decision-making. He called this most superficial understanding of right and wrong pre-conventional morality. Preconventional morality focuses on self-interest. Punishment is avoided, and rewards are sought. Adults can also fall into these stages, particularly when they are under pressure.
Level Two-Conventional Morality: Those tested who based their answers on what other people would think of the man as a result of his act, were placed in Level Two. For instance, they might say he should break into the store, and then everyone would think he was a good husband, or he should not because it is against the law. In either case, right and wrong is determined by what other people think. In stage three, the person wants to please others. At stage four, the person acknowledges the importance of social norms or laws and wants to be a good member of the group or society. A good decision is one that gains the approval of others or one that complies with the law. This he called conventional morality, people care about the effect of their actions on others. Some older children, adolescents, and adults use this reasoning.
Level Three-Postconventional Morality: Right and wrong are based on social contracts established for the good of everyone and that can transcend the self and social convention. For example, the man should break into the store because, even if it is against the law, the wife needs the drug and her life is more important than the consequences the man might face for breaking the law. Alternatively, the man should not violate the principle of the right of property because this rule is essential for social order. In either case, the person’s judgment goes beyond what happens to the self. It is based on a concern for others; for society as a whole, or for an ethical standard rather than a legal standard. This level is called post-conventional moral development because it goes beyond convention or what other people think to a higher, universal ethical principle of conduct that may or may not be reflected in the law. Notice that such thinking is the kind Supreme Court justices do all day when deliberating whether a law is moral or ethical, which requires being able to think abstractly. Often this is not accomplished until a person reaches adolescence or adulthood. In the fifth stage, laws are recognized as social contracts. The reasons for the laws, like justice, equality, and dignity, are used to evaluate decisions and interpret laws. In the sixth stage, individually determined universal ethical principles are weighed to make moral decisions. Kohlberg said that few people ever reach this stage. The six stages can be reviewed in Table 5.6.
Friends and Peers
- Momentary physical interaction, a friend is someone who you are playing with at this point in time. Selman notes that this is typical of children between the ages of three and six. These early friendships are based more on circumstances (e.g., a neighbor) than on genuine similarities.
- One-way assistance, a friend is someone who does nice things for you, such as saving you a seat on the school bus or sharing a toy. However, children in this stage, do not always think about what they are contributing to the relationships. Nonetheless, having a friend is important and children will sometimes put up with a not so nice friend, just to have a friend. Children as young as five and as old as nine may be in this stage.
- Fair-weather cooperation, children are very concerned with fairness and reciprocity, and thus, a friend is someone returns a favor. In this stage, if a child does something Figure 5.21 Source Source 198 nice for a friend there is an expectation that the friend will do something nice for them at the first available opportunity. When this fails to happen, a child may break off the friendship. Selman found that some children as young as seven and as old as twelve are in this stage.
- Intimate and mutual sharing, typically between the ages of eight and fifteen, a friend is someone who you can tell them things you would tell no one else. Children and teens in this stage no longer “keep score” and do things for a friend because they genuinely care for the person. If a friendship dissolves in the stage it is usually due to a violation of trust. However, children in this stage do expect their friend to share similar interests and viewpoints and may take it as a betrayal if a friend likes someone that they do not.
- Autonomous interdependence, a friend is someone who accepts you and that you accept as they are. In this stage children, teens, and adults accept and even appreciate differences between themselves and their friends. They are also not as possessive, so they are less likely to feel threatened if their friends have other relationships or interests. Children are typically twelve or older in this stage.
Peer Relationships: Sociometric assessment measures attraction between members of a group, such as a classroom of students. In sociometric research children are asked to mention the three children they like to play with the most, and those they do not like to play with. The number of times a child is nominated for each of the two categories (like, do not like) is tabulated. Popular children receive many votes in the “like” category, and very few in the “do not like” category. In contrast, rejected children receive more unfavorable votes, and few favorable ones. Controversial children are mentioned frequently in each category, with several children liking them and several children placing them in the do not like category. Neglected children are rarely mentioned in either category, and the average child has a few positive votes with very few negative ones (Asher & Hymel, 1981).
Long-Term Consequences of Popularity: Childhood popularity researcher Mitch Prinstein has found that likability in childhood leads to positive outcomes throughout one’s life (as cited in Reid, 2017). Adults who were accepted in childhood have stronger marriages and work relationships, earn more money, and have better health outcomes than those who were unpopular. Further, those who were unpopular as children, experienced greater anxiety, depression, substance use, obesity, physical health problems and suicide. Prinstein found that a significant consequence of unpopularity was that children were denied opportunities to build their social skills and negotiate complex interactions, thus contributing to their continued unpopularity. Further, biological effects can occur due to unpopularity, as social rejection can activate genes that lead to an inflammatory response.
Those at risk for bullying: Bullying can happen to anyone, but some students are at an increased risk for being bullied including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered (LGBT) youth, those with disabilities, and those who are socially isolated. Additionally, those who are perceived as different, weak, less popular, overweight, or having low self-esteem, have a higher likelihood of being bullied. 200 Those who are more likely to bully: Bullies are often thought of as having low self-esteem, and then bully others to feel better about themselves. Although this can occur, many bullies in fact have high levels of self-esteem. They possess considerable popularity and social power and have well-connected peer relationships. They do not lack self-esteem, and instead lack empathy for others. They like to dominate or be in charge of others.
Those who are more likely to bully: Bullies are often thought of as having low self-esteem, and then bully others to feel better about themselves. Although this can occur, many bullies in fact have high levels of self-esteem. They possess considerable popularity and social power and have well-connected peer relationships. They do not lack self-esteem, and instead lack empathy for others. They like to dominate or be in charge of others.
Bullied children often do not ask for help: Unfortunately, most children do not let adults know that they are being bullied. Some fear retaliation from the bully, while others are too embarrassed to ask for help. Those who are socially isolated may not know who to ask for help or believe that no one would care or assist them if they did ask for assistance. Consequently, it is important for parents and teacher to know the warning signs that may indicate a child is being bullied. These include: unexplainable injuries, lost or destroyed possessions, changes in eating or sleeping patterns, declining school grades, not wanting to go to school, loss of friends, decreased selfesteem and/or self-destructive behaviors.
Family Tasks: One of the ways to assess the quality of family life is to consider the tasks of families. Berger (2014) lists five family functions:
- Providing food, clothing and shelter
- Encouraging learning
- Developing self-esteem
- Nurturing friendships with peers
- Providing harmony and stability
Parenting Styles: As discussed in the previous chapter, parenting styles affect the relationship parents have with their children. During middle and late childhood, children spend less time with parents and more time with peers, and consequently parents may have to modify their approach to parenting to accommodate the child’s growing independence. The authoritative style, which incorporates reason and engaging in joint decision-making whenever possible may be the most effective approach (Berk, 2007). However, Asian-American, African-American, and Mexican-American parents are more likely than European-Americans to use an authoritarian style of parenting. This authoritarian style of parenting that uses strict discipline and focuses on obedience is also tempered with acceptance and warmth on the part of the parents. Children raised in this manner tend to be confident, successful and happy (Chao, 2001; Stewart & Bond, 2002).
Living Arrangements: Certainly, the living arrangements of children have changed significantly over the years. In 1960, 92% of children resided with married parents, while only 5% had parents who were divorced or separated and 1% resided with parents who had never been married. By 2008, 70% of children resided with married parents, 15% had parent who were divorced or separated, and 14% resided with parents who had never married (Pew Research Center, 2010). In 2017, only 65% of children lived with two married parents, while 32% (24 million children younger than 18) lived with an unmarried parent (Livingston, 2018). Some 3% of children were not living with any parents, according to the U.S. Census Bureau data.
Lesbian and Gay Parenting: Research has consistently shown that the children of lesbian and gay parents are as successful as those of heterosexual parents, and consequently efforts are being made to ensure that gay and lesbian couples are provided with the same legal rights as heterosexual couples when adopting children (American Civil Liberties Union, 2016).
Divorce: Using families in the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development, Weaver and Schofield (2015) found that children from divorced families had significantly more behavior problems than those from a matched sample of children from non-divorced families. These problems were evident immediately after the separation and also in early and middle adolescence. An analysis of divorce factors indicated that children exhibited more externalizing behaviors if the family had fewer financial resources before the separation. It was hypothesized that the lower income and lack of educational and community resources contributed to the stress involved in the divorce. Additional factors contributing to children’s behavior problems included a post-divorce home that was less supportive and stimulating, and a mother that was less sensitive and more depressed.
Is cohabitation and remarriage more difficult than divorce for the child? The remarriage of a parent may be a more difficult adjustment for a child than the divorce of a parent (Seccombe & Warner, 2004). Parents and children typically have different ideas of how the stepparent should act. Parents and stepparents are more likely to see the stepparent’s role as that of parent. A more democratic style of parenting may become more authoritarian after a parent remarries. Biological parents are more likely to continue to be involved with their children jointly when neither parent has remarried. They are least likely to jointly be involved if the father has remarried and the mother has not. Cohabitation can be difficult for children to adjust to because cohabiting relationships in the United States tend to be short-lived. About 50 percent last less than 2 years (Brown, 2000). The child who starts a relationship with the parent’s live-in partner may have to sever this relationship later. Even in long-term cohabiting relationships, once it is over, continued contact with the child is rare.
Blended Families: One in six children (16%) live in blended families (Pew Research Center, 2015). As can be seen in Figure 5.27, Hispanic, black and white children are equally likely to be living in a blended family. In contrast, children of Asian descent are more likely to be living with two married parents, often in their first marriage. Blended families are not new. In the 1700-1800s there were many blended families, but they were created because someone died and remarried. Most blended families today are a result of divorce and remarriage, and such origins lead to new considerations. Blended families are different from intact families and more complex in a number of ways that can pose unique challenges to those who seek to form successful blended family relationships (Visher & Visher, 1985). Children may be a part of two households, each with different rules that can be confusing.
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