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Chapter 1

Psychology 2320A/B Chapter Notes - Chapter 1: Intellectual Disability, Behaviorism, Psychoanalytic Theory

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Elizabeth Hayden

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-Children’s mental health problems differ from those of adults
-When adults seek help for children, it often is not clear whose “problem” it is
-Many problems involve failure to show expected development processes
-Many problem behaviours are not entirely abnormal
-Interventions are intended to promote further development, not to restore a previous
level of functioning
-Interest in children’s mental health and abnormal behaviors surfaced near the end of the
18th century
-The church attributed abnormality to uncivilized and provocative nature or the devil
-2/3 children died before turning 5 in the 17th-18th century, and physical and sexual
abuse went unnoticed as it was deemed an adult’s right to abuse their child
-Stubborn child act (1654): Permitted parents to put stubborn children to death for
-Into the mid 1800s, parents could keep disabled children in cages and cellars
Emergence of Social Conscience
-A philosophy of humane care and institutions of social protection began to take root
-Locke believed in individual rights and thought that children should be raised with care
instead of indifference and harsh treatment
-Itard worked with the first “special” child (19th century) —> launched a new era of a
helping orientation
-Distinction between those with retardation (imbeciles) and those with psychiatric or
mental disorders (lunatics) —> distinction was far from clear at beginning
-Moral insanity: Nonintellectual forms of abnormal child behavior (later replaced by
organic disease model which emphasized more humane forces of treatment)
Early Biological Attributions
-Since there was so much focus on the biological disease model, only those with the
most visible disorders were treated
-Mental diseases were seen as irreversible and could only be avoided through strict
punishment and to protect those not affected
-In early parts of the 20th century, those with mental retardation were blamed for crimes
and social ills
-It was believed that mental illnesses could spread
-Preventing the procreation of the insane through sterilization/eugenics and segregation
Early Psychological Attributions
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-Increase in knowledge lead to development of diagnostic categories, expansion of
descriptions of devious behaviors, and more monitoring procedures
-Psychoanalytic theory:
-Freud raised new possibilities for treatment, as the root for disorders stemmed
from early childhood
-For the first time, disorders were not viewed as inevitable, but preventable
-Emphasized that mental health outcomes have multiple roots
-Said children were struggling to achieve control over biological needs and were
trying to make themselves acceptable to society through microcosm of the
-Nosologies: Efforts to classify psychiatric disorders into descriptive categories
Evolving Forms of Treatment
-Between 1930 and 1950, most mentally disordered children were institutionalized
-But it was found that children raised in institutions without adult physical contact and
stimulation developed psychological and emotional problems
-Children were then placed in foster families or group homes
-In the 1960s, behavior therapy emerged —> based on operant and classical conditioning
Progressive Legislation
-There are now laws enacted to protect the rights of those with special needs
-Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA): Free and appropriate education
for any child with special needs
-Childhood disorders are accompanied by various layers of abnormal behaviors ranging
from the visible (truancy, physical assault) to the more subtle, yet crucial (teasing, peer
rejection), to the more hidden (depression, parental rejection)
-TO judge what is abnormal, we need to be sensitive to each child’s stage of
development and consider each child’s unique methods of coping
Defining Psychological Disorders
-Psychological disorder: Pattern of behavioral, cognitive, emotional, or physical
symptoms shown by an individual —> such a pattern is associated with one or more of
3 prominent features:
-Degree of distress (e.g., fear, sadness)
-Degree of disability (e.g., social, physical, emotional functioning)
-Distress and disability increase risk of further suffering or harm, such as death,
pain, disability, etc.
-Stigma: Cluster of negative attitudes and beliefs that motivates fear, rejection, etc.
-Ambiguity remains in defining a particular child’s maladaptive dysfunction
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