Developmental Pathways Through Middle Childhood, edited by Catherine R. Cooper, Cynthia T. García-Coll, W. Todd Bartko, Helen Davis, and Celina Chatman, Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2005, 356 pp., $69.95 (hardcover).
This book's subtitle, "Rethinking Contexts and Diversity as Resources," provides a succinct description of what this wonderful resource successfully illustrates throughout its pages. Cooper, García-Coll, Bartko et al. take a new interdisciplinary approach and blend the concepts of diversity and social contexts. This approach provides an opportunity to see these as resources rather than risks for children's development. The book presents studies for an age group (5 to 12 years) that in the past was consistently forgotten by researchers and authors. The authors remind us that Freud (1955) called the middle childhood "the latency period." Freud and others thought this period was just a static stage that served for transition between two other dynamic developmental periods.
The book is divided into 15 chapters and these are grouped in three main themes: "1) How adults and children, through their perceptions and actions, connect resources across family, school, and community contexts; 2) How low-income families and children and their teachers interpret and use contexts as resources for creating pathways through childhood; and 3) How immigration affects children's emerging identities in their family, school, and community contexts." Each of the 15 chapters of the book corresponds to a different study. In these studies various methodological approaches are used to explore how several contexts (including but not limited to historical, social, economical, and political contexts) affect the development of children in the middle age group.
For years, some of the contexts described in this book, such as low familial socio-economical status, limited number of years of parental education, belonging to a minority group, or being part of an immigrant population have been seen as risks for poor developmental outcomes. Many former studies have documented these adverse effects in shaping the development of a child. Developmental Pathways Through Middle Childhood describes how these particular characteristics of a child's environment and contexts can turn out to be resources and positive forces, shaping the development of the child.
The book's chapters are enriched by vivid descriptions of the participating children and of other children and adults who shape their development. For example, one story involved a mother with limited English proficiency that provided stimulation to her child by reading the Bible in her native language. A second story tells us how the same mother noted the importance of having a set homework schedule for her son by comparing this need to her own work schedule. These descriptions demonstrate how specific social contexts and specific racial, ethnic, and national identities of the parents represent strengths, commitments, involvements and passions in the lives of the children.
The epilogue of the book is dedicated to classifying each of the studies included in the different chapters. They are classified by the type of social, cultural, motivational, and social identity core theories that are addressed as well as by the context reviewed. The diversity also includes location, socio-economical status, race, and ethnicity. Chapters also vary in terms of the age span and school pathway of each study population. The range of social contexts discussed expands the reader's very concept of diversity. Considering the increasing diversity of the U. S. population and the on-going debates about immigration among other issues, this book acquires invaluable relevance.
Developmental Pathways Through Middle Childhood is a book that should be read by professionals and students in different areas, including but not limited to research, clinical practice, education, health and social policy, psychology, and sociology.
Diego Chaves-Gnecco, MD, MPH
Development and Behavioral Pediatrics
Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh