Middle childhood: Evolutionary and cross-cultural perspectives

An interesting special issue of Human Nature (22/3, Sept. 2011) on middle childhood:

From Benjamin C. Campbell’s Introduction:

“Middle childhood is recognized by developmental psychologists as a distinct developmental stage between early childhood and adolescence, defined by increasing cognitive development, emotional regulation, and relative social independence. Adults have increasing expectations of children during middle childhood, as reflected in Sheldon’s White’s (1996) description of this stage as “the age of reason and responsibility.” Developmentally, the onset of middle childhood is defined by Piaget’s (1963) “5 to 7 transition,” with the end marked by the onset of puberty… “In this special issue we examine middle childhood in both evolutionary and cross-cultural perspectives to understand its origins, physiological correlates, and ecological and cultural variability."



"Jennifer Thompson and Andrew Nelson’s (2011) “Middle Childhood and Modern Human Origins” considers evidence for middle childhood in the human fossil record, suggesting that middle childhood may emerge only with the advent of modern humans. David Lancy and Annette Grove’s (2011) “Getting Noticed: Middle Childhood in Cross-Cultural Perspective” provides ethnographic evidence across a variety of cultures from a variety of subsistence types, in support of middle childhood as universal developmental period in which children make a great effort to enter the public arena. In “Middle Childhood among Pumé Foragers,” Karen Kramer and Russell Greaves (2011) place somatic development among Pumé girls in the larger context of other foraging groups. They suggest that Pumé girls grow faster than girls in similar subsistence populations because they expend less energy during middle childhood. Finally, Benjamin Campbell’s (2011) “Adrenarche and Middle Childhood” provides a synthesis of the role of adrenarche not only as a marker of middle childhood, but as a potential coordinator of behavioral changes during this developmental period.



“The articles in this issue represent a holistic approach, integrating biological, social, and cultural perspectives, and using new tools to look at the closely linked biological (hormones, neurophysiology), behavioral, and cultural factors during this key transitional childhood period. In so doing we hope to shed light on an important but neglected stage of human development.”

Table of content of the special issue:

Benjamin C. Campbell: “An Introduction to the Special Issue on Middle Childhood” Jennifer L. Thompson and Andrew J. Nelson: “Middle Childhood and Modern Human Origins” David F. Lancy and M. Annette Grove: “Getting Noticed: Middle Childhood in Cross-Cultural Perspective” Karen L. Kramer and Russell D. Greaves: “Juvenile Subsistence Effort, Activity Levels, and Growth Patterns: Middle Childhood among Pumé Foragers” Benjamin C. Campbell: “Adrenarche and Middle Childhood”

(In the same issue ( pp.225-246) , an article well-worth reading on the Darkness in Eldorado debacle: Alice Dreger: “Darkness’s Descent on the American Anthropological Association: A Cautionary Tale”)




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