Psychodynamic and Psychosocial Theories of Middle Childhood (2023)

Learning Outcomes

  • Examine Erikson’s stage of industry vs. inferiority as it relates to middle childhood
  • Describe the importance of peer relationships to middle childhood

Now let’s turn our attention to concerns related to social development, self-concept, the world of friendships, and family life. During middle childhood, children are likely to show more independence from their parents and family, think more about the future, understand more about their place in the world, pay more attention to friendships, and want to be accepted by their peers.

Freud’s Psychosexual Development: The Latency Stage

Remember that Freud’s theory of psychosexual development suggests that children develop their personality through a series of psychosexual stages. In each stage, the erogenous zone is the source of the libidinal energy. So far we have seen the oral stage (ages birth – 18 months), the anal stage (ages 18 months – 3 years), and the phallic stage (ages 3 years – 6 years).

Freud’s fourth stage of psychosexual development is the latency stage. This stage begins around age 6 and lasts until puberty. In the latency stage, children are actually doing very little psychosexual developing according to Freud. Where pleasure and development occurred through erogenous zones in the first 3 stages, in the latency stage all pleasure from erogenous zones is repressed. In other words, it is latent—hence the stage’s name. Freud believed that in the latency stage all development and stimulation come from secondary sources since the erogenous forces are repressed. These secondary sources can include education, forming various social relationships, and hobbies.

Erikson’s Psychosocial Development: Industry vs. Inferiority

Psychodynamic and Psychosocial Theories of Middle Childhood (1)

Figure 1. According to Erikson, children in middle childhood may feel industrious, or that they can work hard and be successful, or they may compare themselves to others and feel inferior.

(Video) 8 Stages of Development by Erik Erikson

As we have seen in previous modules, Erikson believes that children’s greatest source of personality development comes from their social relationships. So far, we have seen 3 psychosocial stages: trust versus mistrust (ages birth – 18 months), autonomy versus shame and doubt (ages 18 months – 3 years), and initiative versus guilt (ages 3 years – around 6 years). During middle childhood comes the stage of industry vs. inferiority.

According to Erikson, children in middle childhood are very busy or industrious.They are constantly doing, planning, playing, getting together with friends, and achieving.This is a very active time and a time when they are gaining a sense of how they measure up when compared with friends.Erikson believed that if these industrious children view themselves as successful in their endeavors, they will get a sense of competence for future challenges.If instead, a child feels that they are not measuring up to their peers, feelings of inferiority and self-doubt will develop. These feelings of inferiority can, according to Erikson, lead to an inferiority complex that lasts into adulthood.

To help children have a successful resolution in this stage, they should be encouraged to explore their abilities. They should be given authentic feedback as well. Failure is not necessarily a horrible thing according to Erikson. Indeed, failure is a type of feedback which may help a child form a sense of modesty. A balance of competence and modesty is ideal for creating a sense of competence in the child.

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Children in middle childhood have a more realistic sense of self than do those in early childhood.That exaggerated sense of self as “biggest” or “smartest” or “tallest” gives way to an understanding of one’s strengths and weaknesses.This can be attributed to greater experience in comparing one’s own performance with that of others and to greater cognitive flexibility.Achild’s self-concept can be influenced by peers, family, teachers, and the messages they send about a child’s worth.Contemporary children also receive messages from the media about how they should look and act. Movies, music videos, the internet, and advertisers can all create cultural images of what is desirable or undesirable and this too can influence a child’s self-concept.


The pre-adolescent, or tween, age range of roughly 9-12 is a major force in the marketing world. This group has a spending power of $200 billion,[1] andare primarily targeted as consumers of media, clothing, and products that make them look “cool” and feel independent. This market came under heavy fire a few years ago for being overly sexualized, which led to the creation of a task force by the American Psychological Association to learn more—their findings and recommendations to reduce this problem are available to read.

The Society of Children

Friendships during middle childhood take on new importance as judges of one’s worth, competence, and attractiveness.Friendships provide the opportunity for learning social skills such as how to communicate with others and how to negotiate differences.Children get ideas from one another about how to perform certain tasks, how to gain popularity, what to wear, what to say, what to listen to, and how to act.Thissociety of childrenmarks a transition from a life focused on the family to a life concerned with peers. In peer relationships, children learn how to initiate and maintain social interactions with other children. They learn skills for managing conflict, such as turn-taking, compromise, and bargaining. Play and communication also involve the mutual, sometimes complex, coordination of goals, actions, and understanding.

Social Comparison and Bullying

However, peer relationships can be challenging as well as supportive (Rubin, Coplan, Chen, Bowker, & McDonald, 2011). Being accepted by other children is an important source of affirmation and self-esteem, but peer rejection can foreshadow later behavior problems (especially when children are rejected due to aggressive behavior). With increasing age, children confront the challenges of bullying, peer victimization, and managing conformity pressures.

Social comparison with peers is an important means by which children evaluate their skills, knowledge, and personal qualities, but it may cause them to feel that they do not measure up well against others. For example, a boy who is not athletic may feel unworthy of his football-playing peers and revert to shy behavior, isolating himself and avoiding conversation. Conversely, an athlete who doesn’t “get” Shakespeare may feel embarrassed and avoid reading altogether.

(Video) Freud's Psychoanalytic Theory on Instincts: Motivation, Personality and Development

Most children want to be liked and accepted by their friends.Some popular children are nice and have good social skills.Thesepopular-prosocialchildren tend to do well in school and are cooperative and friendly.Popular-antisocialchildren may gain popularity by acting tough or spreading rumors about others (Cillessen & Mayeux, 2004).Rejected childrenare sometimes excluded because they are shy and withdrawn.Thewithdrawn-rejectedchildren are easy targets for bullies because they are unlikely to retaliate when belittled (Boulton, 1999).Other rejected children are ostracized because they are aggressive, loud, and confrontational.Theaggressive-rejectedchildren may be acting out of a feeling of insecurity.Unfortunately, their fear of rejection only leads to behavior that brings further rejection from other children.Children who are not accepted are more likely to experience conflict, lack confidence, and have trouble adjusting. Other categories in themost commonly used sociometric system, developed by Coie & Dodge, includes neglected children, who tend to go unnoticed but are not especially liked or disliked by their peers; average children, who receive an average number of positive and negative votes from their peers, or controversial children, who may be strongly liked and disliked by quite a few peers.

Also, with the approach of adolescence, peer relationships become focused on psychological intimacy, involving personal disclosure, vulnerability, and loyalty (or its betrayal)—which significantly affects a child’s outlook on the world. Each of these aspects of peer relationships requires developing very different social and emotional skills than those that emerge in parent-child relationships. They also illustrate the many ways that peer relationships influence the growth of personality and self-concept.

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The CDC defines bullying as any unwanted aggressive behavior by another youth or group of youths that involves an observed or perceived power imbalance and is repeated multiple times or is highly likely to be repeated. Watch this video to learn how to teach kids how to recognize bullying and how to prevent it.[2]

You can view the transcript for “Ways to Stop Bullying” here (opens in new window).

(Video) Chapter 2.1 Psychodynamic Theories

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children who are ostracized because they are aggressive, loud, and confrontational
children who receive an average number of positive and negative nominations from their peers
children who are either strongly liked or strongly disliked by quite a few peers
children who tend to go unnoticed but are not especially liked or disliked by their peers
children who gain popularity by acting tough or spreading rumors about others
children who are popular because they are nice and have good social skills
children who are excluded because they are shy and withdrawn


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  1. Pearson, Bryan. My (Kid's) Generation: 5 Ways Today's Tweens Are Changing Retail. Forbes. Retrieved from
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Stop Bullying. Retrieved from
(Video) Theories in Social Work


What are the psychosocial theories of middle childhood? ›

Inferiority. According to Erikson, children in middle and late childhood are very busy or industrious. They are constantly doing, planning, playing, getting together with friends, and achieving. This is a very active time, and a time when they are gaining a sense of how they measure up when compared with their peers.

What is the psychoanalytic view of middle childhood? ›

Children in middle childhood have a more realistic sense of self than do those in early childhood. That exaggerated sense of self as “biggest” or “smartest” or “tallest” gives way to an understanding of one's strengths and weaknesses.

What is the psychodynamic theory of childhood development? ›

The psychodynamic theory states that events in our childhood have a significant influence on our adult lives, shaping our personality. Personality is shaped as the drives are modified by different conflicts at different times in childhood (during psychosexual development).

What is the difference between psychodynamic theory and psychosocial theory? ›

Freud's psychosexual theory emphasizes the importance of basic needs and biological forces, while Erikson's psychosocial theory is more focused upon social and environmental factors.

What is psychosocial development in the middle age? ›

Erikson stated that the primary psychosocial task of middle adult‐ hood—ages 45 to 65—is to develop generativity, or the desire to expand one's influence and commitment to family, society, and future generations. In other words, the middle adult is concerned with forming and guiding the next generation.

What are psychological issues in middle childhood? ›

Children in this age range are beginning to face issues of anxiety, depression, behavioral issues and more which can initiate the need for a diagnosis and treatment when the concerns challenge the child's ability to function day-to-day.

What is the psychodynamic theory of psychosocial theory? ›

Psychodynamic Theory : The Psychosocial Development Stages And The Unconscious Mind. Psychodynamic Theory Psychodynamic theory revolves around the basis that the psychosocial development stages and the unconscious mind are essential to understanding human behavior (Walsh, 2013, p. 55).

What is the theory of middle childhood development? ›

Middle childhood is a stage where children move into expanding roles and environments. Children begin to spend more time away from their family and spend more time in school and other activities. As they experience more of the world around them, children begin to develop their own identity.

What is psychodynamic theories? ›

Psychodynamic theories focus on the psychological drives and forces within individuals that explain human behavior and personality. The theories originate from Sigmund Freud's psychoanalysis, which focused on the unconscious mind as the source of psychological distress and dysfunction.

What are the three psychodynamic theories? ›

This article is a part of the guide:

Behaviourism. Social Cognitive Theories. Trait Theory.

What is psychodynamic psychotherapy for children? ›

The process of psychodynamic psychotherapy differs based on the child's age. Younger children may have trouble talking directly about their feelings, but their worries will be expressed in their play. If Ali spends her session taking obsessive care of her dolls, the themes of safety and fear of loss may emerge.

What are the four stages of psychodynamic theory? ›

The stages are oral, anal, phallic, latency, and genital ([link]). Freud's psychosexual development theory is quite controversial.

What are the psychosocial stages of human development according to psychodynamic theory? ›

During the five psychosexual stages, which are the oral, anal, phallic, latent, and genital stages, the erogenous zone associated with each stage serves as a source of pleasure. Psychosexual energy, or the libido, was described as the driving force behind behavior.

What is an example of psychodynamic psychology? ›

An example of psychodynamic psychology is psychoanalysis. This psychological discipline was established by Sigmund Freud, and involves the free-flowing communication of emotional experiences and feelings to a therapist. Childhood events and dreams are particularly important within psychoanalysis.

What is psychological and psychoanalytic theory? ›

Psychoanalytic theory divides the psyche into three functions: the id—unconscious source of primitive sexual, dependency, and aggressive impulses; the superego—subconsciously interjects societal mores, setting standards to live by; and the ego—represents a sense of self and mediates between realities of the moment and ...

What is the psychosocial development of middle and late childhood? ›

Children in middle and late childhood have a more realistic sense of self than do children in early childhood, and they better understand their strengths and weaknesses. This can be attributed to greater experience in comparing their own performance with that of others, and to greater cognitive flexibility.

What stage of Erikson's psychosocial development is the middle age in? ›

Table 1
Approximate Developmental PhaseErikson's (1950) Developmental Crises
Stage 6Young AdulthoodIntimacy vs. Isolation
Stage 6aMiddle Adulthood
Stage 7Generativity vs. Stagnation
Stage 7aOld Age
6 more rows
Nov 9, 2015

What are the examples of psychosocial development in middle adulthood? ›

These include: Launching children into their own lives. Adjusting to home-life without children (often referred to as the empty nest). Dealing with adult children who return to live at home (known as boomerang children in the United States).

What psychosocial conflict do children in middle childhood experience? ›

According to Erik Erikson, the crisis that occurs during middle childhood is the industry versus inferiority crisis.

What are the behavioral changes in middle childhood? ›

Children in this age group might: Show rapid development of mental skills. Learn better ways to describe experiences and talk about thoughts and feelings. Have less focus on one's self and more concern for others.

What is the most common social and emotional problems of middle childhood? ›

With increasing age, children confront the challenges of bullying, peer victimization, and managing conformity pressures.

Who are the theorists of middle childhood? ›

Theoretical Views of Middle Childhood

The two major views of the child between 6 and 12—those advanced by Sigmund Freud and Jean Piaget—focus on some possible reasons for the common belief in middle childhood as a distinct developmental period.

Why is psychosocial development important in middle childhood? ›

Psychosocial development in middle childhood creates morality in children. By the age of 6 years children develop conscience. They also begin to understand moral rules of the society. Trust is a major factor in child's social relationships and its violation is viewed by them as a serious breach.

What are three key elements of development in middle through late childhood? ›

During middle and late childhood children make strides in several areas of cognitive function including the capacity of working memory, their ability to pay attention, and their use of memory strategies.

What is the main goal of psychodynamic theory? ›

Psychodynamic therapy focuses on unconscious processes as they are manifested in the client's present behavior. The goals of psychodynamic therapy are client self-awareness and understanding of the influence of the past on present behavior.

What is the Big Five theory psychodynamic? ›

The five-factor model, or the Big Five, shows that people's traits, grouped in consistent ways, are stable over time and can predict behavior. According to this model, people's traits group into five basic dimensions: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism.

What is a real life example of psychodynamic theory? ›

Psychodynamic Perspective Examples

Obsessive hand washing could be linked to a trauma in childhood that now causes this behavior. Nail-biting may be caused by an anxiety-inducing childhood event. A childhood event that caused fear in an open space may trigger agoraphobia in an adult.

What is psychodynamic theory of problem behaviour in children? ›

The Psychodynamic Model of Emotional and behavioral disorders is a Freudian psychoanalytic theory which posits that emotional damage occurs when the child's need for safety, affection, acceptance, and self-esteem has been effectively thwarted by the parent (or primary caregiver).

What is psychoanalytic approach in children? ›

What is "Child Psychoanalysis"? Child analysis is a form of treatment and research which uses the play of children to help them with their problems. The goal is to aid children - and their parents - to understand their feelings and behaviors and get their development back on track.

What are the 6 core psychodynamic problems? ›

It offers a fresh understanding of the most common problems for which patients seek help—depression, obsessionality, low self-esteem, fear of abandonment, panic, and trauma—and shows how to organize and deliver effective psychodynamic interventions.

Is Erikson's theory of psychosocial development a psychodynamic theory? ›

While his theory was impacted by psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud's work, Erikson's theory centered on psychosocial development rather than psychosexual development.

What are psychosocial theories of development? ›

According to the psychosocial theories, development is a product of the ongoing interactions between individuals and their social environments. Societies, with their structures, laws, roles, rituals, and sanctions, are organized to guide individual growth toward a particular ideal of mature adulthood.

What are Erikson's 8 psychosocial stages? ›

Summary of Erikson's stages
5Identity vs. confusion12 to 18 years
6Intimacy vs. isolation18 to 40 years
7Generativity vs. stagnation40 to 65 years
8Integrity vs. despairOver 65 years
4 more rows
Apr 28, 2020

What is psychodynamic psychology in simple terms? ›

Psychodynamics, also known as psychodynamic psychology, in its broadest sense, is an approach to psychology that emphasizes systematic study of the psychological forces underlying human behavior, feelings, and emotions and how they might relate to early experience.

How is the psychodynamic theory used today? ›

Psychodynamic therapy is primarily used to treat depression and other serious psychological disorders, especially in those who have lost meaning in their lives and have difficulty forming or maintaining personal relationships.

What is the best example of psychoanalytic theory? ›

When her husband gets home, he asks where the cake is and Jennifer realizes she forgot to get it. Based on the psychoanalytical/psychodynamic perspective, Jennifer would react to her forgetfulness in the same way that she used to react when her father would ask her to do something and she forgot to do it.

What are the three 3 levels of psychoanalytic theory? ›

Sigmund Freud divided human consciousness into three levels of awareness: the conscious, preconscious, and unconscious. Each of these levels corresponds to and overlaps with Freud's ideas of the id, ego, and superego.

What is the simple explanation of psychoanalytic theory? ›

Psychoanalytic theory posits that our childhood experiences and unconscious desires shape our behavior. According to Sigmund Freud, the mind consists of three components: the id, ego, and superego.

How do we apply the theory of psychoanalysis in our daily living? ›

Psychoanalytic therapy allows the patient to distinguish perceptions from fantasies, desires from needs, or speculations from truths. Insight and corrective emotional experiences with the therapist can help us regain our ability to care for ourselves and our loved ones.

What is the physiological development of middle childhood? ›

During middle childhood, children's muscle strength, motor skills, and stamina increase. Children acquire the motor skills necessary to perform complex movements, allowing them to participate in a variety of physical activities. For females, most physical growth is completed by 2 years after menarche.

What are the theories of psychosocial development? ›

According to the psychosocial theories, development is a product of the ongoing interactions between individuals and their social environments. Societies, with their structures, laws, roles, rituals, and sanctions, are organized to guide individual growth toward a particular ideal of mature adulthood.

Which of Erikson's stages of psychosocial development characterizes middle childhood? ›

Erikson's fourth psychosocial crisis, involving industry (competence) vs. Inferiority occurs during childhood between the ages of five and twelve.

What is the task of middle childhood according to Erikson theory? ›

According to Erikson, the primary developmental task of middle childhood is to attain industry, or the feeling of social competence.

What are three physiological changes that occur during middle age? ›

Normal Physiological Changes in Middle Adulthood. There are a few primary biological physical changes in midlife. There are changes in vision, hearing, more joint pain, and weight gain (Lachman, 2004).

What is the psychological self in middle childhood? ›

In middle childhood, self-understanding expands to reflect other people's perceptions. A key feature of this period is an increasing sensitivity to the needs and expectations of others and to the knowledge of the self that comes from them.

What is the psychological development of middle schoolers? ›

Middle schoolers are beginning to understand and experience more complex emotions and social situations. As they gain more independence from adults, they are expanding their peer relationships, learning how to navigate group dynamics and resolve conflicts.

What are the three psychosocial theories? ›

Psychosocial theories focus on the mental and emotional as well as social aspects of aging. Three major psychosocial theories on aging are continuity theory, disengagement theory, and activity theory.

What is Erik Erikson's psychosocial development theories? ›

Erikson's theory postulates that people advance through the stages of development based on how they adjust to social crises throughout their lives. These social crises instruct how individuals react to the surrounding world.

What are the psychological theories on the development of child? ›

Freud proposed one of the best-known grand theories of child development. According to Freud's psychosexual theory, child development occurs in a series of stages focused on different pleasure areas of the body. During each stage, the child encounters conflicts that play a significant role in the course of development.

What is the stage in Erikson's stages of psychosocial development that occurs in middle adulthood? ›

Generativity vs. stagnation is the seventh stage of Erik Erikson's theory of psychosocial development. This stage takes place during middle adulthood, between the approximate ages of 40 and 65.1 It comes before the eighth and final stage of development in Erikson's theory, which is integrity vs. despair.

What is Erikson's stage of psychosocial development during middle childhood industry vs inferiority? ›

Erikson's fourth stage of identity typically occurs between the ages of 7-13 and involves industry vs. inferiority. When a child successfully navigates this stage, they develop competency. Competency becomes a big part of confidence as we develop in life and plays a strong role in the next stage of identity.


1. Freud’s 5 Stages of Psychosexual Development
2. Erik Erikson's Theory of Psychosocial Development Explained
(Learn My Test)
3. Social Work Exam Practice Questions: Theories and Practices for LMSW LCSW II
4. Psychoanalytic theory | Behavior | MCAT | Khan Academy
5. The Attachment Theory: How Childhood Affects Life
6. Erikson's Theory of Psychosocial Development
(Kathy Anderson's Psychology Channel)
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