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Developmental Age versus Chronological Age

Miriam Galindo

California-based psychologist and social worker Miriam Galindo counsels families and children involved in high-conflict divorce cases through her own private practice. A diplomate of the American College of Forensic Examiners, Miriam Galindo is a registered child forensic interviewer and has completed training in child interviews.

When interviewing a child, one of the most important steps is assessing his or her developmental age. Also known as functional age, this refers to the age at which a child functions socially, physically, emotionally, and cognitively. In most cases, a child’s developmental age in at least one area is different than his or her chronological age, which is the number of years since birth. For example, a child with a chronological age of 10 may behave like an eight-year-old and read like a 13-year-old.
Children’s developmental age can be affected by many factors. In children with developmental disabilities, their chronological age is often higher than their developmental age. Depending on the severity of a developmental disability, the difference between the ages could be as little as a couple of years.
Developmental disabilities are not the only reason children develop at a slower pace than their chronological age. The environment that a child grows up in can have a huge impact on how he or she develops. Adopted children often fall behind their peers in reaching developmental milestones, as do children who have experienced a traumatic event. Further, children who come from a different country may be developmentally behind in English because it is not their native language.

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