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Factors That Influence Development in Middle Childhood

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

Children develop at different rates based on biological, environmental, and other factors. In this lesson, we will identify the factors that influence the development of elementary students.

Middle Childhood Development

Why do children develop at different rates? Although researchers have identified certain developmental milestones that outline which skills children typically achieve at each stage of development, there are wide ranges of performance that may be considered normal. Let's examine some of the factors that contribute to the cognitive, social, language, and motor skill development of children in middle childhood (6-11 years of age).

Biological Factors

For decades, psychologists have argued whether child development is a function of nature or nurture. Most agree that both play a role. Nature refers to biological factors. Nurture refers to environmental or relationship factors. Biological factors include the child's gender, health, prenatal care, and nutrition. If a child is not progressing at the expected rate, education professionals should explore the following:

  • Was the child premature? Were any health issues present at birth?
  • Does the child have any chronic health conditions?
  • Is there a history of mental illness in the family?
  • Does the child have healthy eating and sleeping habits?
  • Does the child regularly visit the pediatrician and dentist?
  • Has the child had an eye exam?
  • Is the child being taught appropriate hygiene practices?

Environmental Factors

Environmental factors can also influence child development. The environment in which a child grows determines whether the child feels safe, loved, and stimulated. If a student shows signs of developmental delay, teachers may explore the following:

  • Does the child live in a safe and loving home?
  • Does the child have weather-appropriate clothing?
  • Does the child have access to nutritious food?
  • Is the child properly supervised?
  • Does the child have access to books, educational toys, and school supplies?

Other Factors

In addition to biological and environmental factors, other factors may have a nuanced effect on student performance. For example, gender is a biological factor that influences how children develop, but if the child's family or culture dictates strong gender roles, that may impact how successful a student will be at some tasks.

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