Does anyone know how kids' brains develop?
September 20, 2017 11:19 AM   Subscribe

I'm curious if the hivemind knows how much people have studied how kids develop mentally. Sure, we know there are intellectual milestones that kids achieve at different rates, etc, etc.. But how much variation is there? Or for a specific example, if a kid seems a bit slower than his/her peers in kindergarten -- how often will that slowness persist through to high school? Do some kids have an epiphany in 6th grade, like a mental growth spurt?

Or conversely, if a kid is recognized as "really smart" in 2nd grade, how often is that kid just "average" by high school? Is there any good measure of intelligence at any age?
posted by mhh5 to Education (6 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
On the one hand, "IQ tends to remain relatively stable over the lifespan."

"around half of the individual differences in intelligence are stable across most of the human life course."

"the majority of children showed stable patterns of intellectual development from middle childhood to young adulthood."

On the other hand, it's important to do our best to ignore this when considering individuals, because of course there are exceptions, and "...teacher expectations matter. Negative teacher biases can function like self-fulfilling prophecies..."
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 12:47 PM on September 20, 2017

Really smart kids, I mean really smart kids, stay kids longer, they are building a bigger program, and they leave a lot open to fill in the blanks. It takes a lot of mental energy, and social energy to learn as much as they do.

Don't worry about kindergarten, that is a huge adjustment in its own right. For your kid, learning about different social styles they are observing, along with the curriculum, might be overwhelming their ability to perform "normal." I knew people who held their children back a year and started them as older kindergartners, and first graders. I thought this was dumb, especially when the kids turned out to be super bright, and then they had to be transferred up, because aside from being really bright, they were really tall too.
posted by Oyéah at 2:48 PM on September 20, 2017

Childhood development is its own entire field.

Not every kid develops the same way or at the same speed, Even kids with significant delays can catch up and do well depending on intervention, timing and reason for the delay.

There are general broad expectations for most milestones about when they happen. Depending on the task , a year variation for mastering can be normal but for some it's more strict.

Also kids just have a pace. Some kids will work slower than others or just not find tasks urgent. Some kids have attentional disorders that slow down task time across the board. But sometimes just some extra coping strategies and they'll catch right up.

Every child is average in some ways and had strengths and weaknesses. Kids who do well figure out how to use their strengths to deal with the stuff they aren't quite as good at.

Some kids who would be concidered average (or below average) on tests like IQ and such are just so persistent they do really well on metrics such as grades, and homework completion .

In short it's super complicated and not unheard of for all kinds of things to happen!
posted by AlexiaSky at 3:20 PM on September 20, 2017

Some of his opinions are controversial, but Steven Pinker has written several very accessible books on cognition and the developing brain. His books are full of anecdotes from very interesting childhood behavioral experiments and his writing style is very humorous.
How the Mind Works and
the Language Instinct are two of his early notable works that might be what you are looking for.
posted by OHenryPacey at 3:35 PM on September 20, 2017

Hope you like anecdotes because I have a bunch!

Those smart kids in kindergarten are usually smart kids for a lot of reasons, but most likely because they have tutors / very attentive parents that basically taught them to read and do math before their first day.

My buddies that were a little bit "slower" but had families that cared about it caught up by 5th or 6th grade. My buddies that were a little bit "slower" because of an unfortunate home situation (single family, custody issues, drug issues, parents in jail, foster parents switched around) typically stayed behind. Sometimes falling a grade or two behind, and typically never had great grades.

However, at least among my classes, even the worst of those kids that started behind, even the ones that dropped out of college, they are all relatively happy, functioning adults now. One friend that dropped out was a manager at a home depot before I graduated college. Another friend that got bad grades through high school got a degree in nursing in 6 years (4 year program) at college and now works as a nurse.

1 - no, kindergarden performance doesn't last.
2- we overemphasize the importance of school performance. It does not equal happiness in life.
posted by bbqturtle at 7:19 AM on September 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

IQ tests are questionable at best. I think Neil degrasse Tyson said that straight A students succeed despite their teachers, not because of them.
posted by lostguy at 7:37 PM on September 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

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