Skip over navigation

Journal Issue: Children of Immigrant Families Volume 14 Number 2 Summer 2004

The Multiple Contexts of Middle Childhood
Cynthia Garcia Coll Laura A. Szalacha

Summary

During middle childhood, children begin to navigate their own ways through societal structures, forming ideas about their individual talents and aspirations for the future. The ability to forge a positive pathway can have major implications for their success as adults. The pathways to success, however, may differ for children of diverse cultural, racial, ethnic, and national backgrounds. This article provides a conceptual model of child development that incorporates the contextual, racial, and cultural factors that can play critical roles for children who are not part of mainstream society. Key observations emerging from this model include the following:

  •  It is the interplay of the three major derivatives of social stratification—social position, racism, and segregation—that creates the unique conditions and pathways for children of color and of immigrant families.

  • A segregated school or neighborhood environment that is inhibiting due to limited resources may, at the same time, be promoting if it is supportive of the child's emotional and academic adjustment, helping the child to manage societal demands imposed by discrimination.

  • The behavioral, cognitive, linguistic, and motivational deficits of minority and immigrant children are more appropriately recognized as manifestations of adaptive cultures, as families develop goals, values, attitudes, and behaviors that set them apart from the dominant culture.

Society should strive to promote positive pathways through middle childhood for all children, regardless of their background, by ensuring access to critical resources now and in the future. The authors conclude by suggesting various strategies for working with children of color and children of immigrant families to accomplish this goal.