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Running head: CASE STUDY 1

Case Study of Maxwell Ganley, Age 7

Madison Graf

College of Southern Nevada

EDU 220

Professor Wyckoff

7 May 2017


Maxwell Ganley was seven-years-old when the observation began, but turned

eight-years-old halfway through the study. He is currently in 2nd grade at a local charter school.

Ethnicity wise, he is a Caucasian American of Irish descent. Due to his father’s hard work,

Maxwell’s socioeconomic status is considered upper-middle class. English is his first and only

language. Over his lifetime, he has only moved once. His father has graduated with a Master’s in

law, whereas his mother has only taken a few college classes. Maxwell has an interesting family

structure. He has four older siblings from his mother’s previous marriage, and one older sister

whom he shares the same father. Out of all six children, he is the youngest. Although most

children are from a different father, they have all lived together, and still interact at least once a

week. Maxwell currently lives with his mother and father (who care for him), an older brother

from the mother’s previous marriage, and the older sister from the mother’s current marriage.

Maxwell was observed both at school and at home. The school observation occurred throughout

the entire day, both inside his classroom, the hallway and on the playground. When observed in

his home, it was during the week after he finished school, and in his living room, kitchen, and in

the backyard. During these observations, concise notes were taken and used to evaluate Maxwell

according to various criteria.



The University of Washington Child Development Guide states that the normal,

physically developed seven to eight-year-old will display the following characteristics: “drives

self until exhausted; may frequently pout; now has well-established hand-eye coordination and is

likely to be more interesting in drawing and printing; may have minor accidents; is less

interested in sex play and experimentation; can be very excited about new baby in family; has

fewer illnesses but may have colds of long duration; appetite is decreasing; may develop nervous

habits or assume awkward positions” (University of Washington, 1993). The CDC further

clarifies that “by this time, children can dress themselves, catch a ball more easily using only

their hands, and tie their shoes” (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017). The soon to

be eight-year-old boy I observed, Maxwell, meets all of these milestones for physical

development, except one: tying his shoes (he does not own shoes with laces). He hates going to

bed no matter how tired he is because of his desire to continue building Legos, drawing, or

playing basketball with his older brother. He has developed a habit of biting his nails when

nervous about tests, or the outcome of a football game. Maxwell’s love for sports goes beyond

just watching games. Now that he is more capable when playing catch or batting, he will play

with anyone who is willing. Overall, he is in the process of perfecting these milestones and will

soon be ready to move onto the next set.


The emotional changes encountered during this age, according to the CDC, are that they

“show more independence from parents and family, [and] start to think about the future” (2017).

The University of Washington further explains that the average child between seven and

eight-years-old is on time with emotional development they may display the following:

“complain a lot; not respond promptly or hear directions; may forget; easily distracted; withdraw

or not interact with other, in an attempt to build a sense of self” (1993). Maxwell displays these

emotional characteristics. For example, he is constantly wandering from the group to participate

in activities, such as drawing or playing with toys, alone. He definitely has a hard time focusing

enough to answer questions because everything is a distraction to him. Maxwell does not

complain all that often, just mainly when he gets in trouble. Every so often, he can be heard

saying the common phrase, “When I grow up…” which shows that he is starting to think about

the future to a degree. Maxwell displays the normal characteristics for children in his age group

when it comes to emotional development.


The CDC claims that the normal intellectual characteristics of a developed child between

six and eight-years-old are that they “show rapid development of mental skills; learn better ways

to describe experiences and talk about thoughts and feelings; have less focus on one’s self and

more concern for others” (2017). The University of Washington Child Development Guide states

that normal characteristics of intellectual development for this age group include: “eager for

learning; reflective, serious thinking; thoughts can be based on logic; child can solve more

complex problems; attention span is good; enjoys hobbies and skills; likes to collect things and

talk about personal projects, writings, and drawings; favors reality; likes to be challenged, to

work hard, and to take time completing a task” (1993). Maxwell reflects many of these

characteristics in his behavior. When something is of interest to him, he will learn as much as he

can about the subject through books, Internet, and teachers. During his play, he likes to mimic

things that are real, such as sports games instead of his old favorite - Pokémon. Maxwell also

really enjoys problem solving, which he displays through his desire to create extremely long

marble runs (creating a path through which a marble can travel without stopping). Although he

displays many of these intellectual characteristics, the University of Washington Child

Development Guide explains that a child that sets fires can be experiencing a developmental lag

(1993). Maxwell is very interested in fires and explained that he has unsuccessfully tried to set a

few. Overall, Maxwell is in the right range when it comes to intellectual development for the

average seven to eight-year-old.


According to CDC children between six and eight-years-old normally encounter social

changes such as, “pay more attention to friendships and teamwork; want to be liked and accepted

by friends; understand more about his or her place in the world” (2017). A child displaying

normal social development characteristics, according to the University of Washington Child

Development Guide, may “avoid and withdraw from adults; participate in loosely organized

group play; concerned with self and others’ reactions; use aggression…to solve problems; start

division of the sexes” (1993). These are all characteristics that Maxwell shows to varying

degrees. For example, he gets frustrated because he is beginning to understand his role as a child

and does not like that he cannot control everything. He also works hard on his football team to

make sure that he is well-liked, and that others are happy and satisfied with their teamwork.

Throughout the day, he tends to gravitate to children his own age, spending less time with

teachers and parents. During fights with his older brother, he will try to fight him to settle

debates. He never plays with girls unless he is forced to in a classroom activity. The University

of Washington says that children of this age like to have responsibility, but Maxwell does not

because it gets in the way of play time. Overall though, he is on track with his social and

psychosocial development according to the standards mentioned.



The normal characteristic for moral development, according to the University of

Washington Child Development Guide, is that they “may experience guilt and shame” (1993).

Maxwell tries to insist that he does not feel guilt, but that is just because he is embarrassed and

does not want to admit it. When playing with family, friends, or teammates, he does not like to

be called out for doing something wrong or cheating, even if it is on accident. If this occurs, he

withdraws from the activity for a little bit until he feels better or apologizes for his wrongdoing.

Maxwell tries to hide anything that he accidentally breaks because of the guilt and shame of

having to admit what he has done wrong. Maxwell is displaying the normal moral characteristic

of a six to eight-year-old child, and will continue to improve and develop morals with time.

Psychologists' Theories and Age Characteristics

Piaget’s Cognitive Theory

The theory of cognitive development was created by Jean Piaget as an attempt to explain

how knowledge develops, starting with the assumption “that human beings are born with

tendencies to organize and adapt” (Snowman & McCown, 23, 2013). The three main

components of this theory include: organization, schemes, and adaptation. “Organization is the

human tendency to systematize, to pull together a variety of processes into an overall system,”

which makes “thinking processes efficient and powerful” (Snowman & McCown, 23, 2013).

This organized pattern of thinking leads to both behavioral and cognitive schemes, which are

“organized pattern[s] of behavior or thought that children formulate as they interact with their

environment, parents, teachers, and age-mates” (Snowman & McCown, 23, 2013). As children’s

experiences change and broaden, it may become difficult to place everything into existing

schemes, so they must adapt. Adapting occurs by “either interpreting an experience so that it fits

an existing scheme (assimilation) or changing an existing scheme to incorporate the experience

(accommodation)” (Snowman & McCown, 23, 2013). In this theory, Piaget believes that

schemes always evolve through four specific stages: sensorimotor (birth to two years),

preoperational (two to seven years), concrete operational (seven to eleven years), and formal

operational eleven years and older) (Snowman & McCown, 23, 2013).

Maxwell, an eight-year-old, is currently in the concrete operational stage of Piaget’s

theory of cognitive development. He is “capable of operations but solves problems by

generalizing from concrete experiences. [He] is not able to manipulate conditions mentally

unless they have been experiences” (Snowman & McCown, 25, 2013). For example, Maxwell

loves to play with Legos, but he cannot create a semi-truck out of pure imagination. He can only

successfully make it once his brothers have walked him through it. Another example is that

Maxwell has a hard time with certain math problems. He can only solve a set of problems once

his teacher has shown him how, and given him the proper tools to do it on his own. Overall,

Maxwell is right in his age range when it comes to Piaget’s theory of cognitive development.

Vygotsky’s Cognitive Theory

Lev Vygotsky’s theory of cognitive development, “often referred to as a sociocultural

theory… maintains that how we think is a function of both social and cultural forces” (Snowman

& McCown, 32, 2013). Different psychological tools, “cognitive devices and procedures with

which we communicate and explore the world around us”, are passed down within cultures

through social interactions (Snowman & McCown, 33, 2013). Social interactions, with the use of

mediation (the interpretation and transformation of a child’s behavior until it comes to meaning

for the child is the same as it is for others), are claimed to be the major cause for cognitive

development (Snowman & McCown, 2013). The theory explains that the information learned

varies with stages of life, and require different types of instruction. For example, Vygotsky

believes that scientific concepts should be used in the school setting because it uses

psychological tools to allow people to be aware while systematically manipulating the

environment (Snowman & McCown, 2013). With the correct teaching methods in place, and

goals set slightly higher than what the students can already do and know, then they will be able

to address the zone of proximal development (Snowman & McCown, 2013). The scaffolding

technique is also used to help students achieve a higher level of knowledge than they could on

their own. Overall, Vygotsky’s theory focuses on how “culture, social interaction, and formal

instruction affect cognitive development” (Snowman & McCown, 31, 2013).

Maxwell reflects many of the points brought up in Vygotsky’s theory. For example, in his

family and among his friends, competition and winning are very important. These social and

cultural forces that he has grown up around have changed the way that he functions, and handles

situations. When playing ping-pong, for example, he might find ways to change the rules or

enforce the rules that will benefit him most, and allow him to win. Maxwell has also learned to

base his self-worth off of his performance levels, which makes him strive to produce his best

work so that he can impress people. In school, he is taught using scientific concepts, allowing

him to consistently be able to increase where his zone of proximal development is. He also relies

on scaffolding, especially when it comes to solving difficult math problems. Maxwell displays

many of the characteristics that Vygotsky explains in his theory.

Erikson’s Psychosocial Theory


Erik Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development covers every age from infancy

through old age. It also “portrays people as playing an active role in their own psychological

development” and “highlights the important role that cultural goals, aspirations, expectations,

requirements, and opportunities play in personal growth” (Snowman & McCown, 17, 2013).

There are two basic principles of this theory: epigenetic principle and psychosocial crisis. In

Erikson’s theory, personality development follows the epigenetic principle, which states that

“biological organisms develop sequentially” (Snowman & McCown, 17, 2013). Psychosocial

crises are also important because “as one successfully resolves a series of turning points,” their

personality develops (Snowman & McCown, 18, 2013). In order to be a well-balanced person, it

is necessary to develop the positive and negative qualities, as long as the positive outweighs the

negative. There are eight stages in this theory, a few being: trust versus mistrust (birth to one

year), autonomy versus shame and doubt (two to three years), initiative versus guilt (four to five

years), industry versus inferiority (six to eleven year), and identity versus role confusion (twelve

to eighteen years). Going through these stages is a journey, and the ability to be successful in one

stage depends on how well the previous one was completed.

Maxwell appears to be meeting the demands of the current stage that he is in: industry

versus inferiority. He is developing both the positive and the negative qualities of this stage. For

example, in school, he performs well and works extremely hard with teachers that encourage him

and praise his efforts. At the same time, his reading teacher does not compliment his efforts, and

just points out all of his mistakes. In the beginning, Maxwell would continue to try his best, but

after so much criticism, he has begun to feel inferior and no longer enjoys reading. Overall,

Maxwell’s sense of industry outweighs his sense of inferiority, making him successful in his

current stage of Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development.

Kohlberg’s Moral Theory

Lawrence Kohlberg believed that “moral reasoning proceeds through fixed stages and

moral development can be accelerated through instruction” (Snowman & McCown, 41, 2013).

He used stories featuring moral dilemmas to expand on Piaget’s findings about older children.

These stories focused more on macromoral issues rather than micromoral issues that people

experience on a daily basis (Snowman & McCown, 2013). Through his studies, Kohlberg came

up with six stages of moral reasoning: one and two are called preconventional morality (through

about age eight); three and four are called conventional morality (beginning at age ten); and,

stages fix and six are called postconventional morality (adults, but not all reach this stage).

Maxwell is in the preconventional stage of Kohlberg’s theory. He tends to “avoid

punishment, [and] receive benefits in return” (Snowman & McCown, 42, 2013). Maxwell is in

between stages one and two because he exhibits some of the characteristics of both. He shows

signs of being in stage one, punishment-obedience orientation, because the consequences of his

actions determine if he is going to be obedient or not. For example, at school Maxwell loses out

on recess time if he is disrespectful, so he is usually on his best behavior; however, at home, he

does not receive many consequences for being disrespectful, so he does not see a reason to

behave. Despite showing the characteristics of the first stage, Maxwell is beginning to move into

stage two, which is instrumental relativist orientation. For example, he is starting to learn that if

he cannot take a toy from someone without asking, then they cannot do it to him either. Overall,

Maxwell is in the correct stage of Kohlberg’s theory for his age, although he has not completely

mastered the second stage yet.

Snowman’s General Theory

Snowman gave general characteristics with regards to physical, social, emotional, and

cognitive characteristics. Primary grade children (six through eight years) reflect the following

physically: extremely active; easily exhaust, both physically and mentally; fine coordination is

still lagging behind large-muscle control; and can become extreme in their behavior (Snowman

& McCown, 2013). Socially, they are worried about the rules, tend to hang out in small groups,

have a best friend, and get in fights. Primary grade children are still beginning to develop

emotionally. For example, they can be very sensitive, aware of others’ feelings, and want to

please their teachers (Snowman & McCown, 2013). Cognitively, children in this age group are

talking to themselves less frequently after age seven, beginning to understand that they are in

control of their learning, and that there are different ways to know things (Snowman & McCown,

2013). These are the general characteristics of primary grade children.

The general characteristics presented by Snowman reflect Maxwell. For example, he

loves to wrestle with his older brother, and seems to think that there is no way that he will get

hurt, until it happens. His ability to play sports has improved dramatically, yet his writing skills

need some more improvement, which is typical for his age. He also loves to play, but needs

frequent breaks. Maxwell has one best friend, Jake, who is also male, and they do everything

together. He is very concerned about the rules when he plays games, and loves to correct others.

However, if he is criticized for not doing something correctly in a game, he takes it very hard and

will even give up at times. Maxwell is no longer talking to himself as much as he used to, which

is fitting since he is eight. Overall, Maxwell is perfectly defined with the general characteristics

that Snowman gives for children his age.



The University of Washington gives suggestions for parents of children ages seven to

eight-years-old to aid in their physical development. For example, if a child is prone to

participate in an activity until they are completely exhausted, parents should help them change

activities (University of Washington, 1993). Other recommendations from the University of

Washington include: “be patient, as child may not necessarily unhappy or dissatisfied, but is

going through a stage; provide opportunities and materials for drawing and printing; have plenty

of fun Band-Aids on hand; encourage child-infant relationship, if present; fine tune your

supportive bedside manner; be patient with annoying habits, and do not draw attention to

awkwardness” (1993). The Center for Disease Control and Prevention does not give many

suggestions when it comes to helping children in this age group develop physically. It does,

however, mention that parents should have their children “join school and community groups,

such as team sports” (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017). By following the

recommendations given by these two sources, parents of children in Maxwell’s age group can

help them physically develop.


The University of Washington suggests that parents of children Maxwell’s age (seven to

eight-years-old), should follow a few guidelines to effectively help the child develop

emotionally. These suggestions include: providing “reasonable sympathy”, following up with


directions that the child may have forgotten, giving support, and reassuring the child when

necessary (University of Washington, 1993). The Center for Disease Control and Prevention

further explains some positive way to parent children of Maxwell’s age. In order to help the child

continue with their emotional development, they require the following: praise, affection,

recognition, responsibility, and discipline rather than punishments (Center for Disease Control

and Prevention, 2017). All of these things are important for parents to keep in mind because they

can help the child to develop into an emotionally balanced individual.


The University of Washington gives suggestions for parents of children ages seven to

eight-years-old to aid in their intellectual development. When it comes to stories, parents should

leave them open-ended, include realistic events and ideas, and have biographies available

(University of Washington, 1993). It is also good to ask questions that provoke thought, allow

the child to make decisions, support determination with hobbies, give them challenges, and allow

them time to finish what they are doing (University of Washington, 1993). The Center for

Disease Control and Prevention also suggests that parents read with their children, become

involved at their school, and allow them to “solve problems, such as a disagreement with another

child, on [their] own” (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017). Following these

guidelines, parents of children who are Maxwell’s age will become intellectual individuals.


Children between seven and eight-years-old are meeting a lot of challenges socially, and

to help them, experts have given advice for parents. The University of Washington advises that

parents “show understanding and concern; assign responsibilities and tasks that can be carried

out, and then praise child’s efforts and accomplishments; help child accept own performance;

encourage appropriate social interaction; help child evaluate his or her perceptions of others’

behaviors; attempt to prevent conflicts before they erupt; and encourage nontraditional gender

based activities” (University of Washington, 1993). The Center for Disease Control and

Prevention suggests that parents “talk with their [children] about school, friends, and things

[they] look forward to in the future” (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017). They

also mention that it is important to “do fun things together as a family, such as playing games,

reading, and going to events in [the] community” (Center for Disease Control and Prevention,

2017). Proper social interaction is an important aspect of life for children Maxwell’s age.


There are many ways for parents to help their children develop morally. The University

of Washington suggests they “acknowledge and support the child’s standards and discuss

reasonableness of child’s expectations; encourage the child to be self-forgiving; focus on the

worth of an individual rather than on behavior, and then work on changing the behavior”

(University of Washington, 1993). The Center for Disease Control and Prevention builds on

what the University of Washington suggests parents do to aid in moral development. Some of the

tips they provide include: “help your child set [their] own achievable goals; talk with [the] child

about respecting others; help [the] child learn patience by letting others go first; and make clear

rules and stick to them” (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017). These tips will help

parents guide children age seven to eight-years-old in moral development.


Maxwell meets the physical, emotional, intellectual/cognitive, social/psychosocial, and

moral standards for children age seven to eight-years-old. According to Piaget’s theory, Maxwell

is in the concrete operational stage. He also displays the characteristics of Vygotsky’s theory. He

is currently in the industry versus inferiority stage of Erickson’s theory. He is transitioning from

stage one to stage two of the preconventional stage of Kohlberg’s theory, and displays

characteristics of both stages. Maxwell is also fits the description that Snowman gives for

children of his age. There are many recommendations that would be beneficial for Maxwell. For

his physical development, he needs help with pacing himself, and switching activities before he

exhausts himself. Emotionally, he needs reassurance, reasonable sympathy, as well as help when

he forgets directions. For his intellectual development, access to a larger variety of biographies

would be good because he is very interested in them. Socially, it is recommended that he is given

responsibilities, and praise for completing them because as of right now he does not like having

responsibility. A recommendation for his moral development would be to learn self-forgiveness

to keep his perfectionism under control. Overall, Maxwell is on track with his development and

will continue to do so, especially if recommendations for his are followed.



Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017). ​Child development: Middle Childhood (6 - 8

years of age). Retrieved from

Snowman, J. & McCown, R. (2013). ED PSYCH. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage


University of Washington. (1993). ​Child development: Using the child development guide.

Retrieved from