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Developmental Characteristics of Eleven to Thirteen Year Olds (Grades 6-8)

A child’s development is an individual and continual process. The following outlines the typical developmental characteristics of a middle school student. Keep in mind that some of the youth in our program may by “behind” or “advanced” in any of these areas.

General Characteristics
  • Testing limits; a “know-it-all” attitude
  • Vulnerable; emotionally insecure; fear of rejection; mood swings
  • Identification with admired adults
  • Bodies going through physical changes that affect personal appearance
Physical Characteristics
  • Mature at varying rates of speed. Girls tend to be taller than boys for the first two years of early adolescence and are ordinarily more physically developed than boys
  • Good coordination of small muscles; interest in art, crafts, models and music
  • Early maturing youth may be upset about their size (as their adult supporter, you can help by listening and explaining)
  • Very concerned about their appearance; very self conscious about their physical changes
  • Face responsibility for sexual behavior before full emotional and social maturity has occurred
  • Experience biological development five years sooner than adolescents of the last century, the average age of menarche has dropped from seventeen to twelve years of age
  • May have bad diet and sleep habits and, as a result, low energy levels
Social Characteristics
  • Acceptance by friends becomes very important
  • Cliques start to develop
  • Team games become popular
  • Often have “crushes” on other people
  • Friends set the general rules of behavior
  • Feel a strong need to conform; dress and behave like their peers in order to “belong”
  • Very concerned with what others say and think about them
  • Have a tendency to try to manipulate others to get what they want
  • Interested in earning their own money
Emotional Characteristics
  • Very sensitive to praise and recognition; feelings are easily hurt
  • Because friends are very important, can be conflicts between adults’ rules and friends’ rules
  • Caught between being a child and being an adult
  • Loud behavior may hide their lack of self confidence
  • Are moody, restless; often feel self-conscious and alienated; lack self esteem
  • Challenge authority figures; test limits of acceptable behavior
  • Want to know and feel that significant adults, including parents and teachers, love and accept them; need frequent affirmation
  • Are impacted by high level of mobility in society; may become anxious and disoriented when peer group ties are broken because of family relocation to other communities
  • Look at the world more objectively; look at adults more subjectively and are critical of them
Mental Characteristics
  • Tend to be perfectionists; if they attempt too much, may feel frustrated
  • Are searching to form a conscious sense of individual uniqueness “who am I”
  • Want more independence but know they need guidance and support
  • Consider academic goals as a secondary level of priority; personal social concerns dominate thoughts and activities
  • Confront hard moral and ethical questions for which they are unprepared to cope
  • Are reflective, analytical, and introspective about their thoughts and feelings
  • May have lengthy attention span
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