Emotional Development

The Development of 8- to 11-Year-Olds

Let's Get Physical

Children in middle childhood, as the 8- to 11-year-old stage is called, are still changing physically. Most children of both sexes grow about 2 to 3 inches in height and gain up to 8 pounds each year, according to a July 2010 article on the Education.com website. Small muscle development occurs during this period, which improves fine motor skills used for writing or similar tasks. There’s a considerable difference between an 8-year-old and an 11-year-old, especially if the latter has begun the early changes related to puberty. Girls in particular are likely to show some signs of puberty, such as breast development, but boys may also begin to develop physical changes related to puberty, such as pubic hair.

The Social Group

Socially, the peer group begins to assume increasing importance for children in middle childhood. Exclusive clubs, shifting peer alliances and same-gender attachments are common. Children in this age range tend to make friends with those of the same age who share their interests, live nearby or are otherwise similar. Hobbies and sports may also hold the interest of the 8- to 11-year-old. Individual differences become more pronounced, especially in the 9-year-old, according to the Center for Parenting Education. By the time a child reaches 11, she is more likely to be critical of parents or to resist authority than a younger child.

Growing Smarter

Intellectually, this group can use logical thinking but in a limited fashion. These children have considerable general knowledge and are often interested in learning life skills such as cooking or repairing items that break. The older children in this group are beginning to grasp abstract concepts and to be interested in moral or philosophical issues. This is also the time when learning problems may appear, according to Education.com, and parents should be stay alert for difficulties with reading or math. This age group is often restless and has difficulty sitting still in class.

All About Emotions

The changes in emotional development may be subtle, but one key developmental goal in this period is mastery and the need for accomplishment, according to Dr. Kay Trotter, a certified counselor and play therapist. The 8-year-old often has a more intense relationship, especially with her mother, according to the Center for Parenting Education. By age nine, the child begins to be less willing to share details about her day with parents, and by age 11 may develop obvious signs of impending teenage rebellion. Children are generally still emotionally immature during this period and may be unaware of how other people see their behavior.

How to Provide Social & Emotional Development to Young Children

Show affection as often as possible. According to Kristin Reinsberg, a licensed marriage and family therapist, your children will develop both socially and emotionally when you regularly show them that they are loved and wanted. Show interest in your child’s emotions by asking her how she feels about events or circumstances. That will help her develop her emotions in a healthy manner.

Encourage him to show his emotions, advises PBS. Children who are able to express a range of emotions are more emotionally developed that children who are not, according to the network. You can help him develop those emotions by teaching him to appropriately express them. For example, when he is angry and throws a toy across the room, you can tell him that it’s OK to be angry, but that he cannot throw objects. Teach him a better way of handling his anger, such as taking deep breaths or walking away from the cause of his anger.

Nurture your own emotional and social needs. According to Kristin Reinsberg, you have to set a good example for your children if you want to foster their social and emotional development. When you take the time to take care of your own emotional and social needs, you are better able to provide your children with their own social and emotional needs.

Play with him. According to PBS, kids learn social development by exploring, and this includes doing simple acts such as playing peek-a-boo or hide and seek with you or others he loves. When he is encouraged to play games with his loved ones, he becomes aware of others, how they interact and that even when he cannot see them, they are still there. Do not be alarmed if he becomes physical when playing with others -- that's part of the social development plan. For example, if he pushes another child down when that child takes a toy from him, you can help him develop his social skills by teaching him the appropriate way to handle the problem.

Affective Development in Infants

What Happens

Affective development plays a role in how your infant experiences, displays and manages her emotions, according to the California Department of Education. Your baby's emotional development begins when she is born, but is rudimentary because she doesn't have the ability to tell you what she is feeling. This type of development allows her to let you know when she is upset because her diaper is wet, when she is happy being held and when she is scared during a new event. While some parts of affective development occur naturally, parents can help promote other parts of it.


Most babies display similar behaviors in regards to emotional development. These milestones are a way to watch your baby for delays as well as giving you an idea of when to expect her to do certain things. Infant affective development milestones include crying, cooing and smiling. Infants tend to stop crying when picked up. During early emotional development, infants also watch faces and show excitement. In later infancy, you'll see your little one exploring toys, reacting to a change in her routine, laughing and enjoying books. Babies also express an interest in other people by watching them and trying to interact with them.


At birth and beyond, parents who respond to their infant's emotional cues help build healthy affective development because your little one knows she can count on you. When your baby cries, picking her up and soothing her or laughing with her at a new toy are good examples of effective responses. Let your baby explore her surroundings in a safe way. Give her plenty of age-appropriate books and toys so she can play without restriction. Describing emotions is another important way to encourage proper development. Label your infant's emotions for her by asking her whether a wet diaper is making her angry or if a new book is exciting.


Don't compare your baby to your friend's kids or her own siblings. However, if you little one isn't showing many of the affective development milestones, contact her pediatrician for an evaluation. If your baby doesn't smile at you or avoids looking at people's faces, she might be delayed. Other signs of a delay include avoiding affection, trouble with communication and not laughing. Her doctor can either put your mind at ease or recommend further evaluation and treatment.

What causes delayed emotional development?


Delayed emotional development is when a child fails to meet certain expected emotional developmental goals by a certain age. For example, by age four months, a typical baby can recognise an adult face or smile at a parent. By 15 months, most children start to play with other toddlers.

Genetic Abnormalities

A chromosomal or genetic irregularity can cause children to have delayed emotional developments. For example, Down’s syndrome is a disorder which can cause developmental delay due to an abnormal chromosome.

Neurological Problems

Children who struggle with the neurological disorder ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) are often emotionally behind their peers. Besides having difficulty socialising with others, they tend to be more stubborn, making it hard for them to be disciplined. These negative experiences create more emotional problems. Often, ADHD children are viewed by their peers as bullying or domineering. Mood swings can fluctuate often, as well as problems with attention problems affecting their moods, too.

Prenatal Factors

Sometimes when a pregnant woman is exposed to dangerous agents it can hinder her unborn child's emotional development. For example, exposure to lead or drugs can affect a newborn. Infections transmitted from mother to baby such as HIV or measles can also cause emotional development delays in children.

Maternal Depression

According to a document written by Matthew Melmed, executive director of the non-profit organisation, Zero to There, about 10 per cent of mothers of young children struggle with depression and anxiety disorders. The percentages are higher in poverty-stricken families. Depressed mothers can greatly affect the emotional health of children. Depression symptoms should be treated immediately so as not to negatively impact children. Educators or others who notice a problem with parents being depressed should encourage them to get help and support not only for themselves, but also for their children.

Environmental Risks

Family substance abuse or lack of health insurance can affect the emotional development of children. Extreme poverty or domestic violence within a child’s family can also delay emotional development in children, in addition to social isolation and the not receiving the proper treatment or support programs. Parents or other primary caregivers of children need to secure the proper help for children who may be struggling with any of these problems.

Addressing a Child's Emotional Development


You can pick up cues on where your child is in her emotional development by observing her behaviors and listening to her. Children might be reluctant to initiate conversations with their parents, particularly with difficult issues such as bullying and peer relationships. Let your child know you are available to talk. Ask her about what is going on in her life, at school and with her friends, and show interest in the topics that are important to her.

Realistic Expectations

Unrealistic expectations can be emotionally challenging for a child. If a parent sets expectations that are too high for a child’s age or abilities, he can become frustrated or anxious. Similarly, if a parent sets low expectations, a child might internalize those expectations and develop low self-esteem, according to the University of Delaware Cooperative Extension. It is important for parents to set rules, boundaries and goals for their children that are both achievable and that challenge their children to achieve their potential.

Validating Emotions

It's hard for some parents to remember what it was like to be a child. Conflicts with peers or homework problems might seem inconsequential to adults, but to children, these issues can have significant emotional weight. Even though you might not be able to empathize fully with your children’s emotional responses to daily stressors, it is nonetheless important for you to validate your child’s feelings and show concern for her problems.

The Parent-Child Relationship

Fostering a strong parent-child attachment can lead to positive emotional outcomes in children. This bonding process starts in infancy, but continues through adolescence. Parents can maintain a positive connection with their children by spending quality time with them, showing them affection and giving a balance of discipline and positive feedback, explains mental health counselor Janie Lacy on PBS’s “This Emotional Life.” Additionally, Texas Health Resources presents research indicating that noncompetitive, creative play can foster favorable emotional outcomes in children. As a parent, you can play an active role in emphasizing this by stressing the importance of learning, experiencing and growing instead of simply focusing on winning or goal-driven activities.