What Is Late Childhood Development?

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  • Written By: Dan Harkins
  • Edited By: Kaci Lane Hindman
  • Last Modified Date: 27 September 2019
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Parents, physicians and educators try to stay abreast of the key milestones children should be hitting as they reach different ages. From the age of eight until about 11, just before puberty sets it, children undergo the physical and emotional changes of late childhood development. According to experts, this means they are start thinking in a slightly less self-centered way, become more goal-oriented, and establish closer friendships with peers — though parents are likely to still be the central emotional ties. By this age, children also are expected to begin a new growth spurt leading into their teenage years, during which they may have a hard time staying in one place for too long.

According to The Ohio State University Extension, late childhood development marks the end of the slow growth period between kindergarten and about third grade — emotionally, physically and intellectually. Until the end of that latter period, children are likely to be fairly uncoordinated and not grow that much in size. From third or four grade until the end of middle school, however, children begin to grow more robustly as adolescence progresses, with girls typically starting to mature slightly ahead of the boys.

These sudden physical changes leading into the pubescent years of middle school and high school are often beset with embarrassment. This is true for those who are among the first to start experiencing physical changes. It is also true for those late in developing these changes.


Intellectually, late childhood development is marked by a period around the end of elementary school and the beginning of junior high when children stop thinking is such absolute, concrete terms and develop more logical, "gray area" thinking. According to the Child Development Institute, children can begin to start multitasking effectively at this age. They also are likely to begin thinking outside of their own experiences.

This shift from an egocentric outlook is the major emotional factor in late childhood development. Children are asked to start thinking apart from their own needs, often join social groups, and establish more meaningful friendships. Practice becomes more of an understood endeavor. In late childhood development, children may lack a proper identity and self-esteem, although owing to a still-inadequate understanding of themselves and society. This requires parents and educators to continue to reinforce proper behavior with abundant praise.

Afterward, into the teenage years, children begin the physical changes associated with puberty and an even more abstract way of thinking that allows them to grasp a more formalized logic. This includes an understanding that more than one answer can be true to a single question. Also, the concepts of the unknown — reflected, for instance, by variables studied in algebra — can be more effectively understood.


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