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Understanding Child and Adolescent Development

In order to provide an after school program that is developmentally appropriate, after school program staff need to understand the sequence of development of school age children and adolescents in the four areas or domains of development: Physical, Social, Emotional and Cognitive. Development experts agree that:

  • All children move through distinct stages of development in a predictable sequence.
  • Chronological age is not always an accurate predictor of the developmental stage.  Two children can be the same age may be at different stages of development.
  • Each child may proceed at different rates in each developmental area. For example, a five year old may have advanced physical abilities, average cognitive abilities and be below average socially and emotionally.

The following resources offer insight into the skills that school age children and adolescents must master in each domain. They also offer advice to adults so we can help children reach their full potential.

Karen DeBord. Childhood years ages 6-12. North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service. Available at

Erin Morgan and Angela Huebner.  Adolescent Growth and Development, 2009. Virginia Cooperative Extension. Available at

Jacquelynne S. Eccles. 1999 The Development of Children Ages  6-14 . The Future of Children, WHEN SCHOOL IS OUT, Vol. 9 • No. 2.  Available at

The Network Resource Library has excellent books about child and adolescent development. Network members can borrow a book  by contacting Marla Berrios at (203) 483-9757 or emailing her at For your convenience, pre-paid return envelopes are included with your library selection.

Laura Berk.  Infants Children & Adolescents, 7th edition. 2013. Allyn & Bacon, Boston MA.

Judith A. Schickedanz, David I. Schickedanz, Peggy D. Forsyth and G. Alfred Forsyth. Understanding Children & Adolescents. 2001. Allyn & Bacon, Boston MA.

Chip Wood. Yardsticks: Children in the Classroom Ages 4-14. 2007. Northeast Foundation for Children, Turner Falls, MA.

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