Psychological Development Across the Lifespan

School Age Children (6–11)

How important is it for a child to do well in school?

A child’s performance in school is critically important on a number of levels. For one, the academic skills learned in the school-age years form the foundation of all later learning. If a child never masters reading, he or she will be at a serious disadvantage. In our information-based society, a high level of literacy is vital for occupational or economic success. Perhaps even more importantly, though, a child’s experience in school powerfully influences his or her self-concept. Children at this age are capable of comparing themselves to others in a meaningful way. They have some idea of social standing and of social categories.

Nonetheless, they still tend to think in global terms and have some difficulty distinguishing whether their behavior reflects particular circumstances or a general personality trait. In other words, did they fail the test because they need new glasses and couldn’t read the blackboard or because they’re bad at math? Thus, children’s school experience leads to a global, generalized sense of their own competence. If they feel “bad at school,” their lowered self-confidence will diminish their initiative and their persistence in the face of challenge. If they feel “good at school,” their positive self-concept will enhance initiative, frustration tolerance, and self-discipline, and also encourage higher academic and occupational goals.


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