Middle Childhood Peer Relationships

Middle Childhood Peer Relationships: Social Cognition

School-aged children begin to understand the perspective of others. Although parents remain to be central figures in their social lives, as they enter the school world they have to learn to behave appropriately, follow rules and routines and interact with adults and peers. Social perspective taking become a central skill defining the success or failure of children in making and maintaining meaningful friendships and respectful interactions with adults rather than their own parents. By age 6, children become quite capable of acknowledging another person’s point of view. This is a contrast to the more egocentric style of understanding others views through integrating those views into their own way of understanding typical of preschool age. A major milepost in social cognition development is the ability of children aged 10-12 to hold several opposing viewpoints in mind at the same time. For example, children at this age are often heard saying statements such as: “My brother is nice and everything to me most of the time but sometimes I hate him so much for bossing me around!”

Improvement in perspective taking over time, give rise to the ability of children to see what is below the surface of other’s behaviors. They learn to go beyond what meets the eye and delve deeper by trying to explain others behaviors as consistent with underlying motives and personality characteristics. A good indicator of the emergence of this ability is the older child’s ability to understand sarcasm, whereas a preschooler will surely be confused what the psychological intent of the speaker might be.

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