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Growth and Development, Ages 9-12

— Advocates For Youth
Updated on Jul 23, 2010

Human development is a lifelong process of physical, behavioral, cognitive, and emotional growth and change. In the early stages of life—from babyhood to childhood, childhood to adolescence, and adolescence to adulthood—enormous changes take place. Throughout the process, each person develops attitudes and values that guide choices, relationships, and understanding. Sexuality is also a lifelong process. Infants, children, teens, and adults are sexual beings. Just as it is important to enhance a child's physical, emotional, and cognitive growth, so it is important to lay foundations for a child's sexual growth. Adults have a responsibility to help young people understand and accept their evolving sexuality. Each stage of development encompasses specific markers. The following developmental guidelines apply to most children in this age group. However, each child is an individual and may reach these stages of development earlier or later than other children the same age. When concerns arise about a specific child's development, parents or other caregivers should consult a doctor or other child development professional.

Physical Development

Most young people aged nine to 12 will:

  • Experience a growth spurt with significant weight gain, muscle growth, and genital maturation [Growth spurt begins earlier for girls; lasts longer for boys, who end up taller].
  • Enter puberty, a time when hormones produced in the pituitary gland trigger production of testosterone in males, estrogen/progesterone in females [This usually begins earlier in girls (nine to 12) than in boys (11 to 14).] During puberty—
    • Skin becomes more oily and may develop pimples.
    • Sweating increases and youth may have body odor.
    • Hair grows under arms and on pubis and, in males, on face and chest.
    • Body proportions change [hips widen in females, shoulders broaden in males].
    • Joints may ache due to rapid growth.
    • In males, genitals mature, scrotum darkens, voice deepens, sperm is produced, and erections, ejaculation, and wet dreams are more frequent.
    • In females, genitals mature, breasts develop, vaginal lubrication increases, and ovulation and menstrual cycle begin.
  • Masturbate [both males and females] and may have fantasies about others and about sexual intimacy

Cognitive Development

Most young people aged nine to 12 will:

  • Move toward independence as they progress to middle/junior high school
  • Continue developing skills in making decisions as they become more independent
  • Begin to consider future careers and occupations
  • Shift their school focus from play-centered activities to academics
  • Begin to look to peers and media for information and advice [Friends greatly influence them.]
  • Develop increasing capability for social conscience and for abstract thought, including understanding complex issues such as poverty and war
  • Take on increased responsibility, such as family jobs and babysitting
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