© David Sponder, L.E.P., BCBA, RDI CC, Floortime C1
Executive Director, Sponderworks Children’s Services

Developmental Psychopathology is a relatively new field (the first books and articles appeared in the late 1980′s, along with an explosion of developmental neuroscience research).  Developmental Psychopathology integrates a wide diversity of scientific disciplines.  The primary objective of the field or discipline is the scientific inquiry into the mechanisms of deviation from normal development.  Such inquiry leads to better understanding of the causes, as well as prevention and treatment.

Developmental Psychopathology has its own Journal: Development and Psychopathology, currently edited by Dante Cicchetti.  The fololowing is the abstract from, “The past achievements and future promises of developmental psychopathology: the coming of age of a discipline;” by Dante Cicchetti (Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, and Allied Disciplines [2009, 50(1-2):16-25] DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-7610.2008.01979.x)

Abstract: Over the past decades, developmental psychopathology has coalesced into a discipline that has made significant contributions toward the understanding of risk, psychopathology, and resilience in individuals across the life course.

The overarching goal of the discipline has been to elucidate the interplay among biological, psychological, and social-contextual aspects of normal and abnormal development. In addition to directing efforts toward bridging fields of study and aiding in elucidating important truths about the processes underlying adaptation and maladaptation, investigators in developmental psychopathology have been equally devoted to developing and evaluating methods for preventing and ameliorating maladaptive and psychopathological outcomes. Increasingly, efforts are being made to conduct investigations at multiple levels of analysis and to translate basic research knowledge into real-world contexts…

Developmental Psychopathogy is a foundational principle of the work we do at Sponderworks Children’s Services for the following reasons:

  • Developmental Psychopathology integrates findings any scientific discipline that can, in the words of Cicchetti, “…elucidate the interplay among biological, psychological, and social-contextual aspects of normal and abnormal development.”  The following is a list of fields commonly integrated into the field:
    • Developmental Neuroscience, Child Development, and Ethology
    • Attachment Theory and Research
    • Emotion Theory and Research
    • Behavioral and Psychodynamic Theory
    • Systems Theory
    • Epidemiology
    • Research articles dealing with the etiology and neurological, biological and behavioral characteristics of Developmental and Psychiatric Disorders
    • Research articles examining treatment and methods for the above
  • There is a high value placed on the context of behavior
  • A primary objective of the field is to look at how cultural, environmental and biological factors affect development and behavior across the lifespan
  • There are numerous articles on Autism, Attachment Disorders, and other referral concerns at Sponderworks
  • The research and the articles strive for integration rather than partisanship among disciplines (see our Article on the Autism Wars)