At this age, children are still largely concrete thinkers but are beginning to be able to think in more abstract ways, and about more abstract concepts. Most children are reliably able to see things from another’s perspective and, because of this, can show genuine empathy for another’s experiences and feelings. By this age, children can also distinguish between fact and fantasy. They may become intolerant of younger children and the ‘childish’ games that they used to enjoy.
During this stage, children are able to draw on their capacity to think logically, and can use their verbal skills to resolve differences and solve problems. Difficulties and delays in cognitive and language abilities become more noticeable and are more likely to cause a child social distress and embarrassment, which they may try to avoid. Competency in problem solving and in schoolwork is the ‘currency’ of this stage of development. Difficulties in language or in keeping up with schoolwork will be extremely frustrating for the child, as it means they are not able to ‘keep up’ in the way that their peers might expect. This can lead to behavioural issues, as children may rather be seen as the ‘bad’ kid than the ‘dumb’ kid.
Children can become focused on their own areas of interest, and their individual strengths become more obvious. A child is increasingly able to engage in more sophisticated and complex conversations during this phase of development, particularly around their area of interest. They become more interested in facts and knowledge, and have a strong need for mastery (learning how to do things and demonstrating their knowledge).
A child’s self-image becomes increasingly distinct and multi-dimensional during this stage, and mastery and competency feature strongly in children’s self-image. For this reason, it can be helpful to identify a child’s strengths and provide opportunities for them to develop these skills, especially if there are areas of development that a child is struggling with. Children at this age are forming their self-identity, and are increasingly interested in their family and cultural background during this time.
It is normal for a child of this age to have an intense and exclusive ‘best friend’ relationship, typically with a peer of the same gender. Towards the end of this stage, children develop closer relationships with friends outside of their family of origin and the influence of their peer group becomes stronger, although adults remain important role models to them. These friendships tend to be centred on a common interest, like a hobby or sporting activity. Children are usually willing to join in on club activities that revolve around their interests and provide opportunities to experience success.
Children at this age are more reliably able to see things from another’s perspective. They are becoming more social beings, beginning to adopt a more social ‘world view’ and becoming more genuinely interested in others and in the world around them. They also begin to show a reliably internalised sense of conscience and ‘right and wrong’. They aren’t usually as reliant on adults to reinforce social rules, and their social interactions typically reflect concepts of fairness and the needs of others. They are increasingly able to tolerate failure and losing in competitive situations, but may still need adult support with this.
Towards the end of this phase, marked differences in physical development and the onset of puberty can make children feel more awkward and challenge their confidence. They may begin to develop and test out their emerging values, beliefs and ‘identity’ through arguments with parents and other significant adults. The end of this phase may be marked by a prolonged period of self-reflection, and the testing out and defining of beliefs and values against those of their parents.