Child Development
When Age and Development Don't Match
[Cartoon: Child reading with Mom, then crying when she leaves]

[Cartoon: Seven year old on tricycle. Mom "She's seven, she should be able to ride a bike."Sometimes your children won't show the behavior expected at their age. This can be confusing, especially if they are at the normal developmental stage in some areas but not others. For instance, a seven year old may have started reading and writing (normal intellectual development), but doesn't like to be away from her mother (emotional behavior of a four year old).

Your foster child may have become "stuck" at a certain stage in one or more areas, while continuing to grow in others. Abuse and neglect can slow or stop the developmental process. "Abnormal" behavior is often an exaggeration of behavior that may have been normal at an earlier stage of development. For more specific information on the effects of abuse and neglect see Effects of Abuse and Neglect on Development. She may not have accomplished the tasks of an earlier stage of development. Until she goes back and works through that process, she will not be able to move forward in that area.

Dad to eleven year old "I know your class is doning multiplication, but first you have to learn to add." The difference between the actual behavior, thoughts and feelings of a child and those that would be predicted by his or her real age is called developmental lag. This can range from a few months in small children to several years in older children.

As a foster parent, your role is to identify the areas of developmental lag and promote your children's development. Sometimes this can require other services. DEL Early Support for Infants and Toddlers has some good links to available help.

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