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Western University
Psychology 2042A/B
Jeff St.Pierre

PSY 2042: Exceptional Disorders – Behavioural Disorders Chapter 2: Theories and Causes Jorge’s Concerns • Frustrated parents • Cultural differences • Biological influences • Low self-esteem • Poor academic performance • Increased criticism at school • Anxiety and worry Possible Causes of Jorge’s behaviour: 1. Biological influences  Mother’s prenatal history  Tendency toward behavioural inhibition  Children with fears and anxiety are more likely to have parents who had similar problems during childhood  Early neurological development and patterns of connections established within brain may have been influenced by the child-rearing styles his parents used  Inherited one or more genes 2. Emotional influences  May surface without warning  Emotional reactivity and expression are the way infants and young children first communicate with the world around them, and their ability to regulate these emotions as they adapt – critical aspect of their early relationships with caregivers 3. Behavioural and cognitive influences  Perspective of events that elicit fear or avoidance  Events that maintain such awareness by reducing unpleasant reactions  Attention received from teachers or parents  Teasing or rejection from peers  Children with fears develop a belief system that can be self-defeating – leads them to believe they will fail at anything they try  Thoughts tend to make him more anxious and more likely to avoid school as much as possible 4. Family, cultural, and ethnic influence  Early relationship with parents  Current relationship with teachers, peers, and family members  Sensitivity of his parents  How willing are parents to teach him alternative strategies? All children require a parenting style that is sensitive to their unique needs and abilities that place appropriate limits on them to help them develop self-control – proper development requires a basic quality of life (safe community, good school, nutrition, proper health, access to friends, and opportunities to develop close relationships with extended family and members of the community Theoretical Foundations • Very few cause-and-effect relationships exist PSY 2042: Exceptional Disorders – Behavioural Disorders Chapter 2: Theories and Causes • Studying normal development informs theories of abnormal development – studying abnormal development informs theories of normal development • Theory; a language of science that allows us to assemble and communicate existing knowledge more comprehensively – permits us to make educated guesses and predictions about behaviour based on samples of knowledge – moves us to explore other explanations • Knowledge, skill, and evidence must be added to bring theoretical clues to life • Etiology; the study of the causes of childhood disorders – considers how biological, psychological, and environmental processes interact to produce the observed outcomes • In the past, models focused on single explanations – they failed to consider other influences and interactions – one dimensional models do not capture the complexities of abnormal child behaviour • Today, consideration of multiple causes that interact exists 3 Underlying Assumptions 1. Abnormal development is multiply determined 2. Child and environment are interdependent 3. Abnormal development involves continuities and discontinuities ‘Abnormal Development is Multiply Determined’ • Have to look beyond the child’s current symptoms and consider developmental pathways and interacting events that, over time, contribute to the expression of a particular disorder) • Focusing on one primary explanation fails to consider the concept of developmental pathways • A particular problem or disorder may stem from a variety of causes ‘Child and Environment are Interdependent’ • Interdependent = how they influence one another • Nature and nurture work together and are interconnected • Transaction = dynamic interaction of child and environment – the children and the environment both contribute to the expression of a disorder – one cannot be separated from another • Children and their environment both act as active contributors to adaptive and maladaptive behaviours • Essentially, children act on their environment, and the environment acts on them • Psychological disorders emerge from a combination of factors ‘Abnormal Development Involves Continuities and Discontinuities’ • Few psychological disorders emerge without some warning signs or connections to earlier developmental issues • Abnormal child development may be continuous or discontinuous across childhood, adolescence, and adulthood in a consistent or transformed manner • Continuity; developmental changes are gradual and quantitative – future behaviour patterns can be predicted from earlier patterns – patterns of behaviour (e.g. early onset and persistent conduct disorders) • Discontinuity; developmental changes are abrupt and qualitative – future behavior is poorly predicted by earlier patterns – unexpected or atypical outcome (e.g. eating disorders – occur more suddenly without much prior warning) • Influences on continuity and discontinuity;  Individual competence  Social intervention PSY 2042: Exceptional Disorders – Behavioural Disorders Chapter 2: Theories and Causes  Negative factors (poverty, discrimination) • Degree of continuity or discontinuity will vary as a function of changing environmental circumstances and transactions between the child and the environment • Abnormal child psychology must consider abnormality in relation to multiple, interdependent causes and major developmental changes Developmental Periods by Age Approximate Age – Clinical Disorders Normal Achievements Common Behaviour Problems 0-2 Eating, sleeping, attachment Stubbornness, temper, toileting Mental retardation, Autism, feeding difficulties disorders 2-5 Language, toileting, self-care, self- Arguing, demanding, attention, Speech and language disorders, control, peer relationships disobedience, fears, over activity, anxiety disorders (phobias) resisting to bedtime 6-11 Academic skills, rules, rule-governed Arguing, inability to concentrate, self- ADHD, learning disorders, school games, simple responsibilities consciousness, showing off refusal, conduct problems 12-20 Relations with opposite sex, personal Arguing, bragging, anger outbursts, Anorexia, bulimia, delinquency, identity, separation from family, risk-taking suicide attempts, drug and alcohol increased responsibilities abuse, schizophrenia, depression An Integrative Approach • Biological explanations; genetic mutations, neuroanatomy, and neurobiological mechanisms • Psychological explanations; reinforcement and/or learning histories • Biological and psychological explanations are both multi-causal and distinctive • Models are restrictive – they fail to incorporate important components of other models • Over time, models have become compatible with one another • Psychological theories study human behaviour • No single integrative theory fully captures the diversity of perspectives and findings represented by current research Developmental Considerations • Adaptational failure; failure to master or progress in accomplishing developmental milestones (children with psychological disorders different from children their own age on some aspect of normal development • Failure or deviation is rarely due to a single cause, but typically results from an ongoing interaction between individual development and environmental conditions • Causes and outcomes of abnormal child behaviour operate in dynamic and interactive ways over time • Children’s behaviour and their environment are interconnected Organization of Development • Organization of development perspective: early patterns of adaption evolve with structure over time and transform into higher-order functions – active, dynamic process of continual change and transformation • Biological abilities unfold during each new stage of development and they interact with environmental factors to direct and redirect the course of development PSY 2042: Exceptional Disorders – Behavioural Disorders Chapter 2: Theories and Causes • Sensitive periods; windows of time during which environmental influences on development are enhanced – they play a meaningful role in abnormal and normal behaviour – they can enhance opportunities for learning but are not the only opportunities • Human development is a network of interconnecting pathways – it is not a straight line • Development generally proceeds in an organized, hierarchical manner • A child’s current abilities are influenced by prior accomplishments • As children develop greater abilities, changes influence their further developmental success or failure Developmental Psychopathology Perspective • Developmental psychopathology; describing and studying disorders of childhood, adolescence, and beyond in a manner that emphasizes the importance of developmental processes and tasks – uses abnormal development to inform normal development, and vice versa – useful framework for organizing the study of abnormal child psychology around milestones and sequences in physical, cognitive, social-emotional, and educational development • Central belief: to understand maladaptive behaviour, one must view it in relation to what is normative for a given period of development • Draws on knowledge from several disciplines • Children’s behaviours are interconnected with their environment and influenced by their genetic makeup • Developmental cascades; a child’s previous interactions and experiences may spread across other systems and alter his or her course of development – explains how processes at one level can affect how the child adapts to other challenges later on Biological Perspectives • Considers brain and nervous system functions as underlying causes of psychological disorders • During pregnancy, the fetal brain develops from a few all purpose cells into a complex organ made up of billions of specialized, interconnect neurons • Neurons multiply to form various brain structures and functions • Brain stem; heartbeat and breathing • Cerebellum; controls and coordinates sensorimotor integration • Cortex; thought and perception • Embryonic development; over abundance of neurons – they become neurons with axons that carry electrical signals to other parts of the brain • Synapses lay foundation for further growth • Axons fothow chemical cues that tell them the direction to various destinations • By the 5 month; most axons have reached general destination • Early childhood – synapses multiple – then selective pruning reduces the number of connections (shapes important brain functions) • Scientists believe that brain function undergo continual changes as they adapt to environmental demands Neural Plasticity and the Role of Experience • Early neural connections are not stable – some are strengthened, while others regress and disappear • The brain shows neural plasticity throughout the course of development PSY 2042: Exceptional Disorders – Behavioural Disorders Chapter 2: Theories and Causes • Neural plasticity (malleability); the brain’s anatomical differentiation is use-dependent – nature provides the basic processes, whereas nurture provides the experiences needed to select the most adaptive network of connections (based on use and function) • Experience is critical in the differentiation of brain tissue itself • Prenatal environment, childhood illness and diet, maltreatment and inadequate stimulation all count as experience • Experiences play an important role in designing the parts of the brain involved in emotion, personality, and behaviour • Primitive areas of the brain mature first (during the first 3 years of life) – undergo the most dramatic restructuring • Perceptual and instinctive centers are strongly affected by early childhood experiences • Prefrontal cortex (planning and decision making) and the cerebellum (motor skills) are not wired until age 5-7 • Major restructuring occurs between ages 9 and 11 • Throughout adolescence, the brain prunes unnecessary synaptic connections • Consequences of inadequate or traumatic experience may be enduring and difficult to change • Problems at a young age are associated with more severe organic disorders and CNS complications • Proper prenatal care, nutrition, and avoidance of alcohol or tobacco during pregnancy are key is reducing the risk of complications and lifelong disabilities Genetic Contributions • Any trait a child has results from the interaction of environmental and genetic factors • Genome; established at conception – consists of 20,000 to 25,000 genes • Genes; contain genetic information from each parent • 22 chromosomes and a single pair of sex chromosomes – XY for male, XX for female • Positive environmental circumstances can help a child “beat the odds” of developing a significant disorder, despite genetic predisposition • One gene is very rarely the single cause of a disorder The Nature of Genes • Genes are basically a stretch of DNA > produces a protein (vital for brain function, however they very rarely cause a behaviour to happen) > produce tendencies to respond to the environment is certain ways • Genes influence how we respond to the environment, and the environment influences our genes > gene- environment interaction (GxE) > interchanges between nature and nurture > affected by genetic and environment influences, as well as the timing in which they meet • Epigenetic mechanisms involved changes in gene activity resulting from environment • Essentially, the environment can turn genes on or off • Situation A: environmental factors (e.g. abuse) only lead to a psychological disorder if the person has a specific genetic makeup • Situation B: a person who has a susceptible genetic makeup will only develop a psychological disorder if additional environment risk factors exist Behavioural Genetics • Behavioural genetics; a branch of genetics that investigates possible connections between a genetic disposition and observed behaviour (taking environmental and genetic influences into account) PSY 2042: Exceptional Disorders – Behavioural Disorders Chapter 2: Theories and Causes • Look for non-random clustering of disorders or characteristics within a given family and compare these results with the random distribution of the disorders or characteristics in the general population (tend to have higher rates of disorders relative to normative prevalence rates) • These studies cannot control for environmental variable (e.g. a child may be anxious because of child rearing methods rather than a genetic reason) • Studies may compare monozygotic twins (iden
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