Developmental Stages of Children and Youth

Explore typical developmental characteristics of four age groups.

 

5- to 7-Year-Olds

General Characteristics

  1. Eager to learn; easily fatigued; short periods of interest.
  2. Learn best when they are active while learning.
  3. Self-assertive, boastful; less cooperative, more competitive.

Physical Characteristics

  1. Very active; need frequent breaks from tasks to do things that are energetic and fun for them.
  2. Need rest periods—good quiet activities include reading books together or doing simple art projects.
  3. Large muscles are well developed. Activities involving small muscles (for example, building models that have small pieces) are difficult.
  4. May tend to be accident-prone.

Social Characteristics

  1. Enjoy organized games and are very concerned about following rules.
  2. Can be very competitive—this may lead them to cheat at games.
  3. Very imaginative and involved in fantasy-playing.
  4. Self-assertive, aggressive, boastful, want to be first; becoming less cooperative.

Emotional Characteristics

  1. Alert to feelings of others but unaware of how their own actions affect others.
  2. Very sensitive to praise and recognition; feelings are easily hurt.
  3. Inconsistent in level of maturity; regress when tired; often less mature at home than with outsiders

Mental Characteristics

  1. Very eager to learn.
  2. Like to talk.
  3. Can be inflexible about their idea of fairness.
  4. Difficulty making decisions.

 

8- to 10-Year-Olds

General Characteristics

  1. Interested in people; aware of differences; willing to give more to others but also expect more.
  2. Busy, active, full of enthusiasm; may try too much; accident prone; interested in money and its value.
  3. Sensitive to criticism; recognize failure; have capacity for self-evaluation.
  4. Capable of prolonged interest; may make plans on their own.
  5. Decisive; dependable; reasonable; strong sense of right and wrong.
  6. Spend a great deal of time in talk and discussion; often outspoken and critical of adults, although still dependent on adult approval.

Physical Characteristics

  1. Very active and need frequent breaks from tasks to do things that are energetic and fun for them.
  2. Early maturers may be upset about their size—as their adult supporter, you can help by listening and explaining.
  3. May tend to be accident-prone.

Social Characteristics

  1. Can be very competitive.
  2. Are choosy about their friends.
  3. Acceptance by friends becomes very important.
  4. Team games become popular.
  5. Often idolize heroes, television stars, and sports figures.

 

Emotional Characteristics

  1. Very sensitive to praise and recognition; feelings are easily hurt.
  2. Because friends become very important, can be conflicts between adults’ rules and friends’ rules—your honesty and consistency can be helpful.

Mental Characteristics

  1. Can be inflexible about their idea of fairness.
  2. Eager to answer questions.
  3. Very curious; collectors of everything, but may jump to other objects of interest after a short time.
  4. Want more independence while knowing they need guidance and support.
  5. Wide discrepancies in reading ability.

 

 

11- to 13-Year-Olds

General Characteristics

  1. Testing limits; a “know-it-all” attitude.
  2. Vulnerable; emotionally insecure; fear of rejection; mood swings.
  3. Identification with admired adults.
  4. Bodies going through physical changes that affect personal appearance.

Physical Characteristics

  1. Good coordination of small muscles; interest in art, crafts, models, and music.
  2. Early maturers may be upset about their size—as their adult supporter, you can help by listening and explaining.
  3. Very concerned with their appearance; very self-conscious about their physical changes.
  4. May have bad diet and sleep habits and, as a result, low energy levels.

Social Characteristics

  1. Acceptance by friends becomes very important.
  2. Cliques start to develop.
  3. Team games become popular.
  4. Often have “crushes” on other people.
  5. Friends set the general rules of behavior.
  6. Feel a strong need to conform; dress and behave like their peers in order to “belong.”
  7. Very concerned with what others say and think about them.
  8. Have a tendency to try to manipulate others to get what they want.
  9. Interested in earning own money.

Emotional Characteristics

  1. Very sensitive to praise and recognition; feelings are easily hurt.
  2. Because friends are very important, can be conflicts between adults’ rules and friends’ rules.
  3. Caught between being a child and being an adult.
  4. Loud behavior may hide their lack of self-confidence.
  5. Look at the world more objectively; look at adults more subjectively, and are critical of them.

 

Mental Characteristics

  1. Tend to be perfectionists; if they try to attempt too much, may feel frustrated.
  2. Want more independence but know they need guidance and support.
  3. May have lengthy attention span.

 

 

14- to 16-Year-Olds

General Characteristics

  1. Testing limits; a “know-it-all” attitude.
  2. Vulnerable; emotionally insecure; fear of rejection; mood swings.
  3. Identification with admired adults.
  4. Bodies going through physical changes that affect personal appearance.

Physical Characteristics

  1. Very concerned with their appearance; very self-conscious about their physical changes.
  2. May have bad diet and sleep habits and, as a result, low energy levels.
  3. Often a rapid weight gain at beginning of adolescence; enormous appetite.

Social Characteristics

  1. Friends set the general rules of behavior.
  2. Feel a strong need to conform; dress and behave like their peers in order to “belong.”
  3. Very concerned with what others say and think about them.
  4. Have a tendency to try to manipulate others to get what they want.
  5. Go to extremes; often appear to be unstable emotionally while having a “know-it-all” attitude.
  6. Fear of ridicule and of being unpopular.
  7. Strong identification with admired adults.

Emotional Characteristics

  1. Very sensitive to praise and recognition; feelings are easily hurt.
  2. Caught between being a child and being an adult.
  3. Loud behavior may hide their lack of self-confidence.
  4. Look at the world more objectively; look at adults more subjectively, and are critical of them.

Mental Characteristics

  1. Can better understand moral principles.
  2. May have lengthy attention span.

 

Resources:
Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. (1991). Volunteer Education and Development Manual. Philadelphia, PA. Author.