Current Medical Diagnosis & Treatment in Psychiatry

Life-Course Prospective Inquiry

Conclusion

Conclusion
Developmental psychology plays an important role in psychiatric science and practice. Concepts such as the orthogenetic principle, ontogeny, phylogeny, age-norming, and developmental trajectories can help the practicing psychiatrist to place a patient’s current symptoms into developmental and ecological context. Common patterns in the development of psychopathology (eg, biosocial interactions, multiple pathway models, mediational models, and bidirectional effects) enrich the psychiatrist’s understanding of the etiology of psychiatric disorders.

Even though major developmental theories (eg, temperament, attachment, social learning) have historical significance, most contemporary thinking is not directed at contrasting these theories at a macro level. Rather, it is understood that psychiatric phenomena usually involve complex interactions of factors at multiple levels. Current research is aimed at understanding how variables implicated by various theories interact to produce psychiatric disorder, rather than proving one general theory more meritorious than another.

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The Child Development Project

The Child Development Project
The Child Development Project is directed toward understanding the role of family experiences and patterns of social information processing in the development and growth of aggressive conduct problems and conduct disorder in children. The design is a developmental epidemiologic one: 585 preschool children at three geographic sites were selected randomly at kindergarten matriculation to participate in a 12-year longitudinal study. The hypotheses guiding the study were based on social learning theory in developmental psychology and social-information-processing theory in cognitive science, namely, that early family experiences of physical abuse and harsh discipline would predict later serious conduct problems, and that this relation would be mediated by the child’s intervening development of problematic patterns of processing social information. That is, it was hypothesized that early harsh family experiences lead a child to become hypervigilant to hostile cues, to attribute provocations to others’ hostile intentions, to develop aggressive problem-solving styles, and to anticipate that aggressive strategies will result in favorable outcomes. These deviant processing patterns were hypothesized to lead to aggressive conduct problems and conduct disorder.

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Life-Course Prospective Inquiry

Life-Course Prospective Inquiry
One of the most powerful methods in developmental clinical research is that of life-course prospective inquiry, closely linked to developmental epidemiology. By identifying an important sample (either a high-risk sample or a representative sample) and then following that sample with repeated assessments across time using hypothesis-driven measures, researchers have been able to identify risk factors in the development of a disorder, moderators of that risk, and mediating processes in the etiology of the disorder. Two such longitudinal studies are described in this section as examples of ongoing research in this field.

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