Adjustment Difficulty in Middle Childhood

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  • 0:02 Middle Childhood
  • 1:02 Anxiety
  • 3:02 Depression
  • 4:41 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

What happens when a child has social or emotional problems? In this lesson, we'll look at adjustment issues in middle childhood, including anxiety, school phobia and depression, and what parents can do to help their children.

Middle Childhood

Kirsten is having some issues. She's 10 years old, and lately her parents have noticed that she's been acting strangely. She used to be happy and outgoing, but lately she's nervous and withdrawn. She gets very scared if she has to go out in public, especially to school. Her parents are worried and don't know what's wrong with her.

In middle childhood, or the years between the ages of seven and twelve, many children begin to have emotional issues that they didn't have before. Like Kirsten, children who used to be happy and well-adjusted might suddenly begin to feel anxious or depressed.

In psychology, adjustment refers to the ability of a person to be at peace through changes in their behavior or thinking. But some kids have problems adjusting to the changes that occur in middle childhood. As a result, they could end up with emotional problems. Let's look closer at two major emotional issues that can affect kids in middle childhood: anxiety and childhood depression.


Remember Kirsten? She used to be happy and outgoing, but now she feels nervous all the time. When she tries to go to school or to the park, she starts to get really scared about what might happen. She's having nightmares and sometimes worries that she might get hurt if she goes out into the world.

Kirsten's anxiety is not unusual. Approximately 20% of kids in middle childhood develop an intense anxiety of some sort. Even those who do not develop intense anxiety can feel anxious and scared sometimes.

In a way, this anxiety is a natural part of development. As children age, they become more aware of the world around them, which can lead to fear of harm or other common anxieties. Normal levels of anxiety are not only normal but they can help protect children from danger. If they are scared of snakes, for example, they will avoid them and, therefore, have a lower chance of being bitten.

But some children, like Kirsten, end up with anxiety that is much higher than necessary. Parents can help their kids deal with fear by talking with them and, if necessary, seeking out the help of a counselor or psychologist who specializes in childhood anxiety.

Besides anxiety about the world at large, Kirsten has developed a very specific fear of attending school, which is known as a school phobia. She often develops stomachaches in the morning that keep her home from school.

School phobia is most common in 11- to 13-year-olds as the social and academic stakes at school increase dramatically. Starting in middle school, bullying becomes more prevalent. At the same time, middle school academics become more difficult as children move into more and more abstract concepts in their classes. These factors can combine to create school phobia. As with other anxieties, parents should help support their children and seek professional help if necessary.

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