Behavioural Science Blog

The Science of Human Behaviour

Posts Tagged ‘developmental psychopathology

Non-verbal Behavior at Age 2 is significantly related to Language, Communication, and Social Outcome at Age 7

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Charman et al. (2005) found that non-verbal behaviour was relatively robust and reliable on the different measurements over time, whereas the other indicators where not so reliable. In that light non-verbal behaviour might be a good indicator for the development of language and communication skills specifically and quality and frequency of social interactions in general (in the long run [heterotypical development]). Non-verbal behaviour might also be an indicator of the intrinsic motivation to learn socially. That motivation might explain why non-verbal behaviour at age 2 predicted later language, communication and social skills. This is also a good example how developmental psychopathology can increase the knowledge about the processes involved in the development of a disease.

Written by Martin Metzmacher

August 2, 2008 at 10:32 pm

The Probabilistic Nature of Behavioural Phenotypes

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The probabilistic nature of behavioural phenotypes proclaims that people with a specific syndrome will have a heightened probability to exhibit specific behavior or developmental pathways that are different to others, who do not have the specific syndrome. The advantage of probabilistic nature of the construct is that it can account for exceptions and it is probably more ecological valid that a simple causal explanation. (Short excursion: I believe that statistical models that only test direct effects will be outdated in a few years, as we come to appreciate the complexity of behavioral science. Developmental psychopathology is leading the way with extensive use of structural equation modelling and a flexible theoretical framework that works with risk and protective factors. Such models have to potential to raise explanatory value beyond the simple causal models that are employed in most research today.) The behavioural phenotypes are less important for individual therapy where extensive diagnose should be performed, but they have stronger implications for intervention. If risk factors can be identified that apply for a certain population, specifically tailored interventions might be given to the whole group instead of individual therapy later on. That way specific skills and behaviors might help mentally retarded children to cross into a developmental stage, that could not have been reached without the intervention. The crucial thing is that intervention might be necessary at an early age, when children are most sensitive to the intervention, even thou the problematic behaviour might arise only in a later developmental stage.

Written by Martin Metzmacher

July 13, 2008 at 10:28 am

Developmental Psychopathology

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The study of developmental psychopathology is a multidisciplinary approach for studying factors that contribute or impede mental health. These factors can be internal (for example genes) or external (environment) and are conceptualized not as directly influencing mental health, but as building vulnerabilities or enhance adaptation. It is assumed these factors differ in their mechanics according to age. Data about the risk factors and protective factors is recorded by the means of longitudinal studies and then analyzed with their regard to adaptive versus maladaptive developmental outcome. Psychopathology is expected to be found in individuals that are exposed to many risk factors during their development, without access to protective factors that can counteract maladaptive development.

Most studies conducted within the field of psychopathology employ a framework of several factors that spread through multiple levels (macro, exo, micro, intogenetic) from society to the individual. Normal development is studied next to pathological development in order to better understand the processes at hand and their interaction with each other.

Research so far has stressed the influence of the microsystem (family, school and work) for the development of the child. Especially factors related to the quality of parenting have shown to exert much influence on the individual development as either source of or buffer against stress. A well functioning microsystem might be the cause why some children who grow up under bad conditions never develop psychopathology and why children who seem to have perfect premises for a good development do develop psychopathology.

Early inadequate treatment in parent-child interactions might play an important role in maladaptive developmental path, as maltreated children show difficulties in dealing with emotional stimuli. Research supports a sensitization model that leads to stronger emotional reactions with repeated exposure. Biological effects of this developmental path might be connected to altered activity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical-system.

As the toddler grows affect regulation is transferred from the parents to the child. If the emotional system is not able to handle the stress of this transition the child will regard internal affective information as a threat and start to avoid this information. This will impair further development as affect regulation is regarded to be a central process in successfully achieve later developmental stages.

This is especially evident when in kindergarten or primary school peers start to become more important as social interaction partners. Maladaptive development in earlier stages often leads to aggression and/or social withdrawal. Maladaptive social interaction not only keep others from becoming important protective factors, it can also be a source of tremendous stress.

Studying extreme maladaptive development might enable us to understand developmental processes that usually are too subtle and gradual to be observed by the current methodology.

While most social sciences try to reduce reality to a few variables for any given hypothesis, developmental psychopathology often deals with massive amount of data to get as close to reality as possible. New methodological analysis such as structural equation modeling are often used to identify effects that go beyond simple cause and effect relations between to factors, as bidirectional influences between the child and his environment are considered to be an important process.

Written by Martin Metzmacher

April 1, 2008 at 1:02 am