Beyond Psychopathology in Clinical Psychology: Developmental Pathways to the future

Research Paper (undergraduate), 2013

31 Pages



Most notable scholars have commented on the need for research to toy the line of dynamism and innovativeness in their efforts ,both in theory and practice. Similarly, Thomas khun in his publication titled, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, established that science characteristically progress from simple to complex, used the past to lights the future, and also gradually develop until one or more irregularites are faced. Kuhn’s, also explained that inconsistency is a phenomena that goes beyond simple explanation or effectively elucidated by the foremost theoretical paradigm embraced by scholars at that period of time. For example, Newton’s theory of gravity was replaced by Einstein’s theory of relativity once it became obvious that the earlier theory could not meet the recent challenges in research findings. Despite the demands in scientific endeavor, once exposed, anomalies requires a move from ‘‘natural science’’ to the expansion and discovery of a new concept. Therefore, the need to move beyond psychopathology and clinical intervention and embraces developmental perspectives for proper understanding of adaptive and maladaptive in human behaviour and functioning could not be more manifest. It is on this template that this paper based.

Research shows that as human problems addressed by clinical psychologist increases, so is the importance on psychopathology continue to influence the field of mental health. Specifically, the expressions like ‘psychopathology’, ‘mental ailment’ and ‘disorder’ have long become a common treatise, that label people as ‘different’, extenuating the recent upsurge in the provision of social and mentalservices and help inadvancing clinical psychology, Recent literature on psychopathology reveals that less prominence is given to psychosocial issues by clinical psychologist both in practice and research. For example, the general activities designed for classifying psychopathologyis not the same for psychosocial problems. It is also becoming apparent that people who demonstrateboth emotional and learning problems of a non-pathological nature is apportionedcompulsivediagonistic labels like depression, ADHD, (attention deficit hyperactive disorder) and LD (learning disorder).Although it is a general believe that improper and inconsistency diagnosis contaminate research sample, it is also a common knowledge that this process if not properly addressed can lead to inappropriate clinical intervention. If this happens, the primary emphases placed on pathology will adverselyinfluence efforts directed toward addressing psychopathology and psychosocial problems.

Although clinical psychology tackles an increasingly wide range of issues, the fact remains that the discipline’s main emphasis on psychopathology must be equated with knowledge of psychosocial issues. The reductionist clarifications of psychopathology are well notable in both research and practice globally (Fee, 2000), and this stem from ‘systematic’ effortstoward ‘objectively’ recognise and categorizediverseforms of illnessesthat fall under the heading of ‘abnormality’. To address this, research must look beyond psychopathology and clinical practice and belief that ‘psychopathology’ can be assigned and createdthrough socio-cultural and historically-precise connotations (Golsworthy, 2004, Parker et al. 1995). Such sense of balance will go a long way to refine and promote the work done in the discipline and also provide broader perspectives of addressing clinical issues. Thus, relative to epochs and environmental context, psychopathology remains a broader concept that can be addressed using various perspectives. Most literature shows that clinical psychologist faces some difficulties in the course of their practice, and this sometimes influences their approaches to intervention. However, the emergent of developmental perspectives has gone a long way to help the discipline address and comprehend the intricacy of human development, particularly on psychopathology.

Therefore, to nuture the progresses achieved in developmental perspectives, both in psychopathology and normal development, it is very essential that professional knowledge should be channel towards inculcating aninterdisciplinary and multi-levels analysis. As mostly stated in research literature, the main goals of DP is to understand people’s adaptation, and to say the least, ‘entire being’ (Sroufe & Rutter, 1984; Zigler & Glick, 1986), This further established the fact that calls for interdisciplinary and multi-level research approach has gained recognision among researchers all over the world (Cicchetti & Dawson, 2002; Cicchetti & Posner, 2005; Pellmar & Eisenberg, 2000).Interestingly, scholars such as Cummings, Davies, and Campbell (2000) use different models to explain and illustrate the developmental psychopathology framework. According to them, development is a multi-determined concept that can be analyzed and addressedusing an interdisciplinary process that cut acrossvarious domains i.e. from heredities to culture and social ecologyto biology . They also postulate that developmental psychopathology relates to series of upshots, i.e. (from typical development of psychopathology) and the arrayin between those outcomes. Research showsthatcertain outcomes are possible, even in response to the terrible ecologicalstressor and this distinguishes the risk and protectingelements that elucidate different behavioralupshots in human development.

Similarly, Bronfenbrenner (1979) argued that, differences in behavior happen across various systems (e.g., individual, family, extra familial), and that developmental psychopathology method thatassessesadjustmentand amladjustmentconductis not constant. This showsthat human and the contextual milieu are dynamic and their relationship and behavioraloutcomechanges over time.Also, developmental psychopathology does not only explaining disorder in children, but signifies theperception that entails a fusion of two separate disciplines into a novel and integrated field of study. Historically, most research literature in psychiatricemphasis more on adult, therefore, relegates research on child psychopathology as compare to those of adults (Achenbach, 1974). Developmental literatures confirmed that this measure have been largely overlooked in most psychopathology research, and this makes it difficult for researchers to address fundamental psychosocial problems in psychopathology. Conversely, developmentalists such as, Flavell, (1977); Mussen, (1970); and (Piaget &Inhelder (1969) have come up with a process that explains normal cognitive, affective, social, perceptual, and biological development. They focus more on normal development and thecauses of developmental transitions (Rutter, 1986). Some of thechallenges confront developmental psychopathologist is how to resourcefully pool the two different scientific disciplines into a complete strategy that studies, children's normal and abnormal functioning across developmental stages, and at the same time maintaining continuities and discontinuities between normality and disorder and also from one developmental stage to the other.

Purpose of study

This paper looks beyond psychopathology to classify behavioural, emotional and learning difficulties and clinical intervention model. The paper highlights the need for professionals in the field of clinical psychology to shoulder the policy of equivalence that gives developmental perspectives the same treatment and status enjoy by psychopathology. In realizingthis purpose, this paper will focus on two underlying themes: 1) understanding the fact that amelioration of psychosocial problems, needs a multidisciplinary and multidimensional quality and experiential consideration from other disciplines,2) the field of clinical psychology and mental health in general gain from assessingpsychopathology from developmental perspectives. Also, the paper will analyse behavioral, emotional and learning problems usingempirical analyses that go beyond psychopathology and clinical intervention models. Lastly, the paper will use the principles, advancement and prospect of developmental psychopathology as a paradigm to address the concept, challenges and variancesassociated with human psychopathology.

Background Information.

Research established that developmental perspectives are source of intervention strategy for both developmental psychology and psychiatry. Also, as an emerging field, developmental psychopathology (DP) is strongly linked with scientific knowledge (Cicchetti, (1984), (1990a); Cummings, et al., (2000); Masten, (1989); Masten, Burt, &Coatsworth, in press; Sameroff, (2000a); Sroufe & Rutter (1984). This view point signifies union of pronounced intellectual disciplines and research on adjustment conduct, withfocus on psychopathology and development respectively (Masten et al., in press). This result from the need to examine the aetiologies and interventions for stern mental health disorders in children and adults. Research established that people show evidence of psychopathology in life due to personal or family disorder (Masten, 1989). Therefore, research on children at risk of psychopathology must emphasis on the systematic thought that measures adaptive demeanor and individual differences and at the same time, encourages both the partnership and knowledge of developmental and clinical scientists.

It is interesting to know that a significant number of scholars support the blending of development and clinical science perspectives. For instance, scholars such as Norman Garmezy, Irving Gottesman, Michael Rutter, Arnold Sameroff, Alan Sroufe, and Ed Zigler did not only work and pooled knowledge together, they also educated powerful students, like Thomas Achenbach and Dante Cicchetti, to mention a fewabout the importance of adopting multidisciplinary methods to psychopathology. Most support for DP is developed from books such as Developmental Psychopathology (Achenbach, 1974), Child Development (Cicchetti, 1984), Rochester Symposia on Developmental Psychopathology (Cicchetti, 1987), Development and Psychopathology (Cicchetti, 1989), and the compilation on Developmental Psychopathology ( Cicchett & Cohen, 1995). However, unlike psychiatry that focuseson evaluation, the process of treatment and service delivery, developmental psychology emphasesis on the universal application of developmental processes.

Also, earlier studies portrayed developmental psychopathology as none or "hardly exists” field (Achenbach, 1974, p. 3). Even till now, the subject is still referring to as an "emergent" discipline, that can be discerned and shape to meet a necessary need. The rising of the discipline sketches and extends the boundary of clinical psychology beyond the concept of psychopathology. A decade of research shows that developmental psychopathology merges with disciplines that has immensely contributed toknowledge based on risk, psychopathology, and resilience in human development. Research also confirmed that developmental psychology elucidate the interaction between genetic, psychological, and social-contextual feature of characteristic and uncharacteristic behaviour and equally committed to emerging and assessing processes that prevent as well as ameliorate maladaptive and psychopathological effects. Despite its modern crystallization as a logical framework for probing and conceptualizing relationships between psychopathology and development, therecent ascendance of DP is linked to the most historically based activities such as developmental, embryology, epidemiology, heredities, sociology, neuroscience, beliefs, psychiatric therapy, psychoanalysis, scientific, and developmental, (Cicchetti, 1990).

On the other hand, developmental psychopathology also underlines the following factors such as change and adaptation, the "abnormal" responses to anxiety or difficulty, and the interaction between the two outcomes (Rutter, 1986). Historically, research highlights lack of well-expressed cum dependable scheme for categorizing poignant and conduct problems in youngsters as the main problem to developmental psychopathology. Also, lack of perfection and unbiased strategies for recognizing maladies, has made interaction and sweeping statement across studies a difficult task. Similarly, the continuous manifestation of issues both in research and handling of syndromes like autism (Rutter & Schopler, 1978) and juvenile depression (Schulter-brandt & Raskin, 1977) is linked to lack of concrete agreement on what symptoms really illustrates disorders and which children expresses them. Although no specific or generally recognized classificatory arrangement for childhood psychopathology is found as consistent and valid till today, yet , the discipline has come up with a number of taxonomies that includes clinically derived systems like: DSM (American Psychiatric Association, 1980), the World Health Organization Multi-axial Classification System (Rutter, Shaffer, &Shepherd, 1975), Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry (1966) and those postulated through Achenbach (1978; Achenbach & Edelbrock (1979), Conners (1970), Quay (1964); Quay & Quay (1965), and Soli et al, (1981).

Furthermore, developmental psychopathologist embraces and use anorganismic, holistic, transactional framework to explain individual deference’s in typical and atypical growth ( Cicchetti, 1993; Cicchetti& Cohen, 1995; Cummings,Davies, & Campbell, 2000; Garmezy & Rutter, 1983; SameroV, 1983, 1995; Sroufe & Rutter, 1984). Besides, most researchers repeatedly formulate their approaches to reflect structural standards and systems language that echo intensely with dynamic systems (DS) principle universally and self-organization specifically. Some of the theories explain DP models as: General Systems Theory (GST) (SameroV,1983, 1995; von BertalanVy, 1968), Developmental Systems Theory (DST) (Ford & Lerner, 1992), ecological theory (Bronfenbrenner, 1979), contextualism (Dixon & Lerner, 1988), transactional perspective (Dumas, LaFrenier, & Serketich, 1995), organizational approach (Cicchetti & Schneider-Rosen, 1986; Garmezy, 1974; Sroufe & Rutter, 1984), holistic interactionistic (Bergman & Magnusson, 1997), and epigenetic (Gottlieb, 1991, 1992). These methods underlines process-level explanations of human behaviour, environment reliance and heterogeneity of developmental occurrences. They also embrace the following factors: multidimensional nature of development, the hierarchically rooted intrapersonal (e.g., neurochemical activity, cognitive, and emotional processes), relational (e.g., parent–child interactions; peer networks), and social systems (e.g., communities, cultures) and last but not the least, strategies that trigger changes and uniqueness (as well as constancy) in common and clinically important trajectories.

Fundamental principles of developmental psychopathology

According to developmental viewpoint, children are mature and grown organism that experience both quantitative and qualitative transformation and expressesrisingdifferentiation and the combination of diverse functioning. Childhood psychopathology is branded on developmental perspective, suchas (a) the continuity between childhood and adult psychopathology, and (b) the meaning of normality and deviance, particularly as regard to age, environment, developmental condition, and the sequence of growth over time. Although, the main goal of DP is to develop intoa science that wills not only viaducts the areas of study, but also detect new fundamental ideas about lifespan adjustment and maladjustment. This offers an optimum ways of averting and improving maladjustment and compulsive effects (Cicchetti, 1990; Sroufe & Rutter, 1984). While it established that DP sought to lessen the existing dualisms concerning experimental and clinical studies, it is also employed in behavioral and biological sciences in treatment of mental illness, infancy and adult high-risk situation (Cicchetti, 1990; Masten, 2006; Toth & Cicchetti, 1999).

The exceptionality and fundamental nature of DPviewpointsis based on its general belief aboutcharacteristic and uncharacteristic, adjustment and maladjustment developmental processes. Research on DP envisioned psychopathology as a distortion, disorder, or deterioration of normal behavior. The research also highlights that, to fully understand psychopathology, one must comprehend the typical ways of evaluating psychopathology (Cicchetti, 1984, 1990, 1993; Rutter, 1986; Sroufe, 1990). However, the review of literature did not only documented the fact that understanding normal biological, psychological, andsocial processes is exceptionally helpful for measuring, detecting, understanding, averting, and curing psychopathology, it also agreed that the digression from and distortions of normal growth that typify pathological processes signifies how normal development is examined and comprehended.These physically stirring circumstances includes: total number of off spring nurtured in institutions, children exposure to mistreatment and abandonment, people with learning disorder, and mental illness. These situations offer an introduction into research awareness about system interaction, ineffectiveness, and restructuring that are lacking due to cultural and ethical limitations linked to empirical research on human being (Cicchetti, 2003; Rutter, 2007).

Given the fact that there are restrictions to empirical manipulations of human organism, and that the systemanalysis in its efficiently functional andfit state do not allow better understanding of the interrelationship between the element subsystems, therefore, the knowledge about people experiencing problems regularly is the only means to observe the full difficulty surrounding developmental processes. That is why developmental psychopathology linked individual pathways to able adaptation regardless oftheir exposure to important difficulty or long-lasting suffering i.e., resilience(Luthar, Cicchetti, & Becker, 2000; Masten, 2001). It also accentuates the significance of comprehending the performance of individuals who, despite swerved onto abnormal developmental pathways, has continue to attain a constructive operative and suitable adjustment (Cicchetti & Rogosch, 1997; Masten, 2006; Zigler & Glick, 1986). While it is established that the scope of DP go beyond traditional disciplinary margins, it is also argued that the discipline offers abundant opportunity for stirring beyond descriptive evidence of a process-level perceptive of adjustment and maldjustment , characteristic and uncharacteristic trajectories of human development.

Based on this, developmental psychopathology framework also challenged the assumptions regarding healthiness and modify the way in which the clinicians defines, measures, categorizes, writes on, and deals with adaptational and functional impairments amongst, children, youngsters, and grown person (Cicchetti & Toth, 1998). According to Cicchetti and Toth, (2000, 2006) DP’s probable contributions is the experiential influence it posseses, particular, its ability to translate evidence and knowledge into practice. Such developmental perspective prevents and reduces the burden of mental disorder both in individual and society, and alsolessen thedistress that mental illness provokes in human being and their immediate environment, and last but not the least aid in eradicating the shame normally linked to the existence of a mental disorder (Hinshaw, 2007; Hinshaw & Cicchetti, 2000).


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Beyond Psychopathology in Clinical Psychology: Developmental Pathways to the future
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Olusegun Emmanuel Afolabi (Author), 2013, Beyond Psychopathology in Clinical Psychology: Developmental Pathways to the future, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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