Child and Adolescent Development Theory


Between the years of 6 and 14, also known as middle childhood and early adolescence, children undergo enormous cognitive, emotional and physical development. These are the years that children "make strides toward adulthood by becoming competent, independent, self-aware, and involved in the world beyond their families" (Eccles, 1999, p. 30).

In middle childhood (6-11), children leave home and begin to become socialized, with lasting impacts on the development of their individual identities. Their self-confidence, and therefore their ability to perform without enacting affective filtering, also develops during this period based on three factors: cognitive changes that allow for metacognition about personal success and failures, and rational problem solving; the massive expansion of children's social and physical environments; and exposure to social comparison (Eccles, 1999, p. 32).

In early adolescence (11-14), children begin to recognize themselves as independent individuals endowed with agency as they begin to undergo the biological changes associated with puberty. Cognitive changes during this period allow for more abstract thinking, and therefore cognitive transfer. There is a social aspect to development during this period, as well: as early adolescents enter their first teenage years, they are afforded much more time with peer groups outside of the home, where they are treated as equals. This is a tumultuous time for children, who undergo enormous changes and face multifaceted social pressures from adults and peers alike.


Eccles, J. (1999). The development of children ages 6 to 14. The Future of Children, 9(2), 30-43.

Lerner, R.M. & Anderson, P.M. (2003). Positive youth development: Thriving as the basis of civil society. Applied Developmental Science, 7, 172-180.

Lee, Patrick. (1999) In their own voices: An ethnographic study of low-achieving students within the context of school reform. Urban Education, Vol. 34 No. 2. Pp. 214-244