Parenting During Middle Childhood
W. Andrew Collins
Stephanie D. Madsen
University of Minnesota
Parents of children between the ages of 5 and 12 years—the period commonly referred to as middle childhood—face challenges arising from both maturational changes in children and from socially imposed constraints, opportunities, and demands impinging on them. Children in diverse societies enter a wider social world at approximately the age of 5 years and begin to determine their own experiences, including their contacts with particular others, to a greater degree than previously. Between the age of 5 years and adolescence, transitions occur in physical maturity, cognitive abilities and learning, the diversity and impact of relationships with others, and exposure to new settings, opportunities, and demands. These changes inevitably alter the amount, kind, content, and significance of interactions between parents and children. In this chapter we address the impact of the distinctive challenges and achievements of middle childhood on parent–child relationships and on the processes of socialization within families.
The chapter includes five main sections. The first section provides a brief overview of historical considerations in the study of parenting of 5- to 12-year-old children. The second section outlines key normative changes in children that affect parenting during middle childhood. The third section reviews changes in parent–child relationships in which parenting issues are embedded. The fourth section distills findings from research on the issues of parenting and of parent–child relationships that are especially linked to the distinctive changes of the period. These include adapting processes of control, fostering self-management and responsibility, facilitating positive relationships outside the family, and maintaining contacts with schools and other out-of-home settings. The concluding section underscores the key themes from research and notes persistent questions about the distinctiveness of parenting during middle childhood.