We wondered if child maltreatment affects the growth and development of school-age children. “The broad term child maltreatment includes intentional physical abuse or neglect, emotional abuse and neglect, and sexual abuse of children, usually by adults” (Perry, Hockenberry, Lowdermilk & Wilson, 2010). Child Protective Services agencies in the United States estimated that there were 900,000 children who were victims of child maltreatment in 2005. Of these confirmed cases, 17% were victims of physical abuse, 9% were victims of sexual abuse, 63% were victims of neglect, and 7% were victims of emotional abuse. The 2006 estimates indicated that about 1530 children died as a result of maltreatment (Perry et al., 2010). After seeing frightening results we, hypothesized that child maltreatment does adversely affect the growth and development of school-age children.
School age children range from ages six to around twelve years old. During this time they experience many biological developments. Height and weight of the child continues to increase, with their weight doubling between the ages of six and twelve. School age children also face many developmental milestones in psychosocial, cognitive, moral, spiritual and social aspects. The developmental process of school age children can be characterized by using Kohlberg, Piaget, Erikson and Freud’s theories.
Moral development of a school age child is based on Kohlberg's theory. Children move from egocentricity to a more logical thinking as they grow. Children of about six or seven years old know the rules and behaviors that are expected of them unlike children of preschooler age. For school age children, a system of rewards and punishment guide their behavior. They often misunderstand cause and effect, and they may think that accidents or misfortunes are a form of punishment. They don't understand the reasoning behind rules and certain expected behaviors. “Older school age children are able to judge an act by the intentions that prompted it rather than just its consequences” (Perry et al., 2010). They are able to also look at situations from another person’s point of view. Spiritual development at this age is learned from their parents but is also influenced by their cognitive level. School age children have a great desire to learn about their God, heaven and hell. They are also beginning to understand the natural versus supernatural (Perry et al., 2010). According to Piaget, the cognitive development of a school age child is the development of concrete operations. Cognitive development is when a child is able to use thought process to experience events and actions (Perry et al., 2010). Children are now beginning to see another person's point of view and can develop an understanding of relationships between things and ideas. They are beginning to use conceptual thinking in which their thoughts are based on reason and rationalization. They use their memories of past experiences to evaluate and interpret the present (Perry et al., 2010). School age children also learn the concept of conservation, develop classification skills, understand rational terms and concepts, learn the alphabet and words and begin to gain the ability to read. Freud and Erickson both describe the psychosocial development of the school age child. Freud describes this as "the latency period, a time of tranquility between the Oedipal phase of early childhood and eroticism of adolescents. During this time children experience relationships with same sex peers following the indifference of earlier years and preceding the heterosexual fascination that occurs for most boys and girls in puberty" (Perry et al., 2010). Erickson describes the psychosocial development of school age children as developing a sense of industry versus inferiority, which is accomplished from age six into adolescence.