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2 - The Significance of Middle Childhood Peer Competence for Work and Relationships in Early Adulthood

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 September 2009

W. Andrew Collins
Professor at the Institute of Child Development, University of Minnesota
Manfred van Dulmen
Assistant Professor of Psychology, Kent State University
Aletha C. Huston
University of Texas, Austin
Marika N. Ripke
University of Hawaii, Manoa
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Middle childhood is a period of rapidly intensifying transitions. Between age 5 and adolescence, transitions occur in physical maturity, cognitive abilities and learning, the diversity and impact of relationships with others, and exposure to new settings, opportunities, and demands. These changes inevitably alter the amount, kind, content, and significance of children's interactions with a rapidly expanding social network (Collins, Madsen, & Susman-Stillman, 2002). This chapter addresses the impact of one feature of that network – increasingly salient relationships with other children – and the significance of these challenges and achievements for work-related attitudes and relationship competence in early adulthood.

The chapter is divided into four sections. The first outlines several possible reasons for links between the development of competence in relations with peers in middle childhood and competence in work and close relationships in early adulthood. The second describes our approach to testing these linkages in data from a longitudinal study following children from birth to age 23. The third section outlines findings regarding links between middle childhood development and functioning in early adult work roles and social relationships. The chapter ends with a discussion of the impact of middle childhood experiences on functioning in later periods of life and identifies possible implications of the findings for children's lives.


Competence has been defined in varied ways, but the common thread is an emphasis on the capacity to draw upon personal and environmental resources to achieve good developmental outcomes.

Developmental Contexts in Middle Childhood
Bridges to Adolescence and Adulthood
, pp. 23 - 40
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2006

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