Journal Issue: When School Is Out Volume 9 Number 2 Fall 1999
The years between 6 and 14—middle childhood and early adolescence—are a time of important developmental advances that establish children's sense of identity. During these years, children make strides toward adulthood by becoming competent, independent, self-aware, and involved in the world beyond their families. Biological and cognitive changes transform children's bodies and minds. Social relationships and roles change dramatically as children enter school, join programs, and become involved with peers and adults outside their families. During middle childhood, children develop a sense of self-esteem and individuality, comparing themselves with their peers. They come to expect they will succeed or fail at different tasks. They may develop an orientation toward achievement that will color their response to school and other challenges for many years. In early adolescence, the tumultuous physical and social changes that accompany puberty, the desire for autonomy and distance from the family, and the transition from elementary school to middle school or junior high can all cause problems for young people. When adolescents are in settings (in school, at home, or in community programs) that are not attuned to their needs and emerging independence, they can lose confidence in themselves and slip into negative behavior patterns such as truancy and school dropout. This article examines the developmental changes that characterize the years from 6 to 14, and it highlights ways in which the organization of programs, schools, and family life can better support positive outcomes for youths.