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Chapter 1-2

PSYCH317 Chapter Notes - Chapter 1-2: Developmental Disability, Intellectual Disability, Moral Insanity

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Paula Cerveny

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Psych 317 Midterm #1 Notes- Chapters 1,2, 4, 13 & 14
Chapter 1- Introduction to Normal and Abnormal Behavior in Children and Adolescents
Research studies in abnormal child psychology seek to address:
o Defining what constitutes normal and abnormal behavior or children of different ages,
sexes, and ethnic and cultural backgrounds
o Identifying the causes and correlates of abnormal child behavior
o Making predictions about long-term out comes
o Developing and evaluating methods for treatment and/or prevention
Features that distinguish most child and adolescent disorders:
o When adults seek services for children, it often is not clear whose “problem” it is
Children do not refer themselves for treatment
This has important implications for how we detect children’s problems and
how we respond to them
o Many child and adolescent problems involve failure to show expected developmental
o Many problem behaviors shown by children and youths are not entirely abnormal
o Interventions for children and adolescents often are intended to promote further
development, rather than merely to restore a previous level of functioning
Historical Views and Breakthroughs
o Early writings suggest that children were considered servants of the state in the city-
states of earl Greece
Ancient Greek and Roman societies believed that any person- young or old-
with a physical or mental handicap, disability, or deformity was an economic
burden and a social embarrassment, and thus was to be scorned, abandoned, or
put to death
o 17th-18th century- two-thirds of children died before their fifth birthday due to lack of
antibiotics or medications to treat deadly diseases
Also, many children were treated harshly or indifferently by their parents
o Parent’s prerogative to enforce child obedience was formalized by Massachusetts’s
Stubborn Child Act of 1654
Permitted parents to put “stubborn” children to death for misbehaving
Didn’t happen to anyone
o Mid 18th century: law allowed children with severe developmental disability to
be kept in cages and cellars
The Emergence of Social Conscience
o John Locke- believed children should be raised with love and care instead of
indifference and harsh treatment
Saw children as emotionally sensitive beings who should be treated properly
o Jean Marc Itard (19th century)- he treated Victor “wild boy of Averyon” by sensory
experiences instead of sending him to asylum
Averyon Victor was “mentally arrested” and found in the woods in France by
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Victor who initially was mute, walked on all fours, drank water while
laying flat on the ground, and was nonverbal, incapable of attention,
and insensitive to basic sensations of hot and cold.
o Itard gave him hot baths, massages, electric shocks to “train”
Victor to be able to identify letters, comprehend words
o After 5 years with Itard, Victor learned to identify objects,
identify letters, comprehend many words, and apply names to
o Findings: Demonstrated that children with a severe
impairment can improve with treatment
However, Itard felt his efforts had failed, because his goals of
socializing the boy to make normal were never reached.
o Lela Hollingsworth (19th century)- believed that mental defective children were
suffering from emotional and behavioral problems due to inept treatments by adults and
lack of appropriate intellectual challenge
Led to distinction between person with intellectual disability and those with
mental disorders
o Benjamin Rush (18th century)- argued that children were incapable of true adult-like
insanity, because of immaturity of their developing brains prevents them from retaining
the mental events that caused insanity
“Moral insanity” grew in acceptance as a means of accounting for non-
intellectual forms of abnormal children behavior
o Two important influences for mental health in children
Advances in general medicine, physiology, and neurology, the moral insanity
view of psychological disorders was replaced by the organic disease model
Organic disease model: More humane form of treatment
o Further advanced by advocates such as Dorothea Dix
Established 32 humane mental hospitals
Growing influence of philosophies of Locke and others led to: view that
children needed moral guidance and support
Increased concern for moral education, compulsory education, and
improved health practices.
Early Biological Attributions
o With successful treatment of infectious disease during 19th century, increased belief that
mental health were biological problems
Early biological explanation lead to a bias being in favor of the cause being
the person’s fault “mad”, “possessed by the devil”
Masturbatory Insanity: first disorder unique to children
Became the “cause” of psychopathology in children
Objections to masturbation originated from religious and moral views
augmented by the growing influence of science
Example of importance of scientific skepticism in
confirming/disconfirming new theories for abnormal behavior
o Mental Hygiene movement:
1909 Clifford Beers believed mental disorders were a form of disease, he
criticised society’s ignorance and indifference
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sought to prevent mental disease by raising standards of care and
disseminating reliable information
o Limitation: paradigm was based on a biological disease model;
intervention was limited to persons with the most visible and
prominent disorders
o Early 20th century: early model reverted to custodial model
People with intellectual disability were blamed for crimes
Society returned to believe that mental illness could spread
Segregate and institutionalize people with mental disabilities and prevented
them from procreating (eugenics)
Early Psychological Attributions
o Psych shift prompted development of diagnostic categories and new criminal offenses,
expansion of descriptions of deviant behavior and addition of more comprehensive
monitoring procedures for identified individuals
o Two major Paradigms:
o Psychoanalytic theory
Freud was first one to give meaning to concept of mental disorders by linking
it to childhood experiences
Rather than focusing on singular cases, psychoanalytic theory emphasized that
personality and mental health outcomes had multiple roots
Freud shifted view from one of children as innocent or insignificant to one of
human beings in turmoil, struggling to achieve control over biological needs
and to make themselves acceptable to society through the microcosm of
Daughter, Anna Freud: noted how children’s symptoms related more to
development stages than were of those adults
Melanie Klein: all actions could be interpreted in terms of unconscious
Both women: made possible analysis of younger children and recognition of
nonverbal communication for patients of all ages
o Note* current nosologies (efforts to classify psychiatric disorders into descriptive
categories), are essentially non-developmental in their approaches. Rather than
attempting, as Freudian approach does, to describe development of disease in context of
development of individuals, nosologies of DSM attempt to find common denominators
that describe manifestations of disorders of every age
o Behaviorism
1900’s: development of evidence based treatments for children, youths, and
families is reflected in Pavlov’s experimental research that established
foundations for classical conditioning
John Watson: father of behaviourism (emphasis on prediction and control of
human behavior)
Intent: explain Freudian concepts (unconsciousness, transference) in
scientific form, based on conditional emotional responses (therefore
discrediting Freud’s theory of emotion)
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