Social Influences and Middle Childhood – A Difficult Learning Period

     During middle childhood, friendships and peer relations become very important, as children begin to spend a significant amount of time with their peers. It is important that they find a place within their social group. This requires an increased attention to social rules and an increased ability to consider other peoples point of view. Social status becomes important and children must compete for this. How children are treated by their peers places them into a certain category social status. Popular children are those who receive positive attention from their peers. Rejected children receive little positive attention from their peers and lots of negative. They are actively disliked. Neglected children are generally ignored by peers rather than disliked. Controversial children receive both positive and negative attention. Victimized children are selectively and actively harmed, psychologically and physically by a few in their peer group. Finally, bullies are children who act aggressively without provocation in order to dominate children.

Why are some Children popular and others not?

     There are reasons why some children are treated differently than others. Popular children seem to be physically attractive and skilled at interacting and maintaining positive relationships, being socially competent. Rejected children are often treated negatively because they are highly aggressive. They overestimate their competence and social skills, and underestimate how much others dislike them. Neglected children are less sociable, but not aggressive or shy. Their social status often improves over time. Often they perform academically, are co-operative and liked by their teachers. Controversial children are aggressive, but they compensate for it by joking and using social skills so that they don’t break relationships with others. Victimized children loose their temper easily and are immature and dependent. Bullies are often aggressive without provocation and it is beneficial for them to behave that way ( they get something they want).


     Middle childhood is a time when most children begin to judge themselves and are judged by others. If a child sees themselves as competent and smart and likes who they are they will have good self esteem. If a child fails to demonstrate some skill that they feel makes them worthy they will have poor self esteem. All people, children included, judge their worth on two factors – their degree of competence and their acceptance. Those who feel they are lacking certain skills or are not accepted by others may have lower levels of self esteem than those who perceive themselves to be high in these areas.

Foundations For Self-esteem:

     The self-esteem of a child is linked to parenting. Three factors are important in ensuring that a child feels good about themselves. In particular, there are three parental characteristics that combine to produce high self-esteem in children: 1) Parents accept their children: Children with high self-esteem have mothers who are closer and more affectionate. The child appreciates their mother’s approval and views them as supportive. They interpret their mother’s interest as an indication of their personal importance. 2) Parents set clearly defined limits: Parents who impose and enforce strict limits on children’s activities appear to give their children a sense that norms are real and significant and this contributes to the child’s self definition. 3) Parents respect individuality: Children with higher self-esteem are allowed a great deal of self-expression. As well, parents show respect for children’s ideas by reasoning with them and considering their points of view.

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