Open main menu

Developmental psychopathology is the study of the development of psychological disorders (e.g., psychopathy, autism, schizophrenia and depression) with a life course perspective.[1] Researchers who work from this perspective emphasize how psychopathology can be understood as normal development gone awry.[2] Developmental psychopathology focuses on both typical and atypical child development in an effort to identify genetic, environmental, and parenting factors that may influence the longitudinal trajectory of psychological well being.


Theoretical basisEdit

Developmental psychopathology is a sub-field of developmental psychology and child psychiatry characterized by the following (non-comprehensive) list of assumptions[citation needed]:

  1. Atypical development and typical development are mutually informative. Therefore, developmental psychopathology is not the study of pathological development, but the study of the basic mechanisms that cause developmental pathways to diverge toward pathological or typical outcomes;
  2. Development leads to either adaptive or maladaptive outcomes. However, development that is adaptive in one context may be maladaptive in another context, and vice versa;
  3. Developmental change is influenced by many variables. Research designs in developmental psychopathology should incorporate multivariate designs to examine the mechanisms underlying development;
  4. Development occurs within nested contexts (see Urie Bronfenbrenner);
  5. This field requires that development arises from a dynamic interplay of physiological, genetic, social, cognitive, emotional, and cultural influences across time.

Origins of the academic fieldEdit

Dante Cicchetti is acknowledged to have played a pivotal role in defining and shaping the field of developmental psychopathology.[3] While at Harvard University, Cicchetti began publishing on the development of conditions such as depression and borderline personality disorder, in addition to his own work on child maltreatment and mental retardation. In 1984, Cicchetti edited both a book and a special issue of Child Development on developmental psychopathology. In that special issue he himself wrote "The emergence of developmental psychopathology."[4]

These efforts launched developmental psychopathology[citation needed], a subfield of developmental science. In 1989, nine volumes of the Rochester Symposium on Developmental Psychopathology were published, as was the first issue of the journal Development and Psychopathology.

Development of conduct problemsEdit

One form of developmental pathology is conduct disorder. Conduct disorder grows progressively worse over time and behavior considered annoying as a child is considered pathological as the child gets older. The Oregon Social Learning Center has done considerable research on the development of conduct disorder.[5]

Gerald R. Patterson and colleagues take a functionalist view of conduct problems in line with a behavior analysis of child development. They have found considerable evidence that the improper use of reinforcement in childhood can lead to this form of pathology.[6]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Cicchetti, D. (1989). Developmental psychopathology: Some thoughts on its evolution. Development and Psychopathology, 1, 1-4.
  2. ^ Kerig, P., Ludlow, A., & Wenar, C. (2012). Developmental Psychopathology (6th edition).
  3. ^ Cicchetti, D., & Cannon, T. (1999). Neurodevelopmental processes in the ontogenesis and epigenesis of psychopathology. Development and Psychopathology, 11, 375-393.
  4. ^ Cicchetti, D. (Ed.). (1989). Rochester symposium on developmental psychopathology: The emergence of a discipline (Vol. 1). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
  5. ^ Patterson (2002) Etiology and Treatment of Child and Adolescent Antisocial Behavior. The Behavior Analyst Today, 3 (2), 133- 155. [1]
  6. ^ James Snyder, Mike Stoolmiller, Gerald R. Patterson, Lynn Schrepferman, Jessica Oeser, Kassy Johnson, and Dana Soetaert (2003): The Application of Response Allocation Matching to Understanding Risk Mechanisms in Development: The Case of Young Children’s Deviant Talk and Play, and Risk for Early-Onset Antisocial Behavior. The Behavior Analyst Today, 4 (4), 435-452 BAO