Psychological Development Across the Lifespan

School Age Children (6–11)

Why are the school-age years called the latency years?

The school-age years extend roughly from ages six through 11. Otherwise known as middle childhood, these are years of relative stability. The child has mastered the cognitive, linguistic, emotional, and social challenges of early childhood and is now capable of participating in the social world. School-age children are ready to join society, not as independent participants—children this age still need considerable adult supervision—but as junior members of the social world. They are capable of learning the fundamentals of adult work, of building and managing peer relations, and of understanding and respecting social rules. Many parents find these the easiest years of parenting, with the enormous demands of infancy and early childhood behind them and the upheaval of adolescence yet to come.

Freud referred to this period as the latency period, in which the passions of the earlier psychosexual stages calm down, go underground so to speak, only to re-emerge in adolescence. Latency-aged children devote their energy to the mastery of skills, particularly those taught in school. Erikson’s stage of Industry vs. Inferiority also speaks to this observation, suggesting that the latency years are focused on mastery, with powerful implications for a child’s basic sense of competence.


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