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Chapter 1

PSY 338 Chapter Notes - Chapter 1: Dorothea Dix, Leta Stetter Hollingworth, Intellectual Disability

Course Code
PSY 338

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Abnormal Child Psychology Psy 338 chapter 1
Introduction to Normal and Abnormal Behavior in Children and Adolescents
Questions that exemplify the following issues that research studies in abnormal child
psychology seek to address:
Defining what constitutes normal and abnormal behavior for children of different
ages, sexes, and ethnic and cultural backgrounds
Identifying the causes and correlates of abnormal child behavior
Making predictions about long term outcomes
Developing and evaluating methods for treatment and/ or prevention
Children usually enter the mental health system as a result of concerns from parents,
teachers, etc…
Many child and adolescent problems involve failure to shoe expected developmental
Many problem behaviors shown by children and youths are not entirely abnormal
Interventions for children and adolescents often are intended to promote further
development, rather than merely to restore a previous level of functioning
Those young or old with a physical or mental handicap, disability, or deformity was an
economic burden and a social embarrassment, and thus were scorned, abandoned, or put
to death.
Cruel acts ranging from extreme parental indifference and neglect to physical and sexual
abuse of children went unnoticed or were considered an adults right for educating or
disciplining a child.
Parents were permitted to put “stubborn” children to death for misbehaving.
The law also allowed children with severe developmental disabilities to be kept in cages
and cellars
The emergence of Social Conscience
John Locke influenced the beginnings of present-day attitudes and practices of childbirth and
child rearing. Children should be raised with thought and care instead of harsh treatment.
Psychologists such as Leta Hollingworth argued that many mentally defective children were
actually suffering from emotional and behavioral problems primarily due to inept treatment by
adults and lack of appropriate intellectual challenge.
This view led to an important and basic distinction between persons with mental retardation and
those with mental disorders, although this distinction was far from clear.
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Children who had normal cognitive abilities but who were disturbed were thought to suffer from
moral insanity, which implied a disturbance in personality or character.
Dorothea Dix- established 32 humane mental hospitals for the treatment of troubled youths
previously relegated to cellars and cages.
Early Biological Attributions
Example of how thinking can lead to an explanation of abnormal behavior
Views on masturbation evolved from the moral judgment that it was a sin of the flesh, to
the medical opinion that it was harmful to one’s physical health, to the psychiatric assertion that
sexual overindulgence caused insanity.
Clifford Beers who recovered from psychosis, believed that mental disorders were a form of a
disease, and sought to make a difference. As a result, detection and intervention methods
became to flourish, based on a more tempered- yet still quite frightened and ill informed- view of
afflicted individuals.
The development of a disease was considered progressive and irreversible, tied to the
development of the child only in that it manifested itself differently as the child grew, but
remained impervious to other influences such as treatment or learning. All one could do was to
prevent the most extreme manifestations by strict punishment, and to protect those not affected.
Society believed that mental illness and retardation were diseases that could spread if left
Early Psychological Attribution
There was a concern that attempts to recognize the wide range mental health needs of children
and adults could easily backfire and lead to the neglect of persons with more severe disorders.
Two major theoretical paradigms helped shape these emerging psychological and environmental
influences: psychoanalytic theory and behaviorism.
Psychoanalytic Theory
Freud was one of the first to reject such pessimism and raise new possibilities for treatment as
the roots of these disorders were traced to early childhood.
Although he believed that individuals have inborn drives and predispositions that strongly affect
their development, he also believed that experiences play a necessary role in psychopathology.
For the first time the course of mental disorders were not viewed as inevitable, children and
adults could be helped in provided the right environment, and therapy.
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Freud was the first to give meaning to the concept of mental disorder by linking it to childhood
Freud viewed children as humans in turmoil, struggling to achieve control over biological needs
to make themselves acceptable to society
Nosologies- the efforts to classify psychiatric disorders into descriptive categories.
The development of evidence-based treatments for children, youths, and families can be traced to
the rise of behaviorism in the early 1900’s, as reflected in Pavlov’s experimental research that
established the foundations for classical conditioning, and in the classic studies on the
conditioning and elimination of children’s fears.
Watson would study babies in their cribs
Watson wanted to demonstrate how fear might be conditioned in a baby, Watson set out
to condition fear in an 11 month old orphan named Albert. When showed a white rat, Watson
would make a loud noise to scare the baby, which eventually made Albert scared which
conditioned him to fear anything white and furry.
Evolving Forms of Treatment
Rene Spitz raised serious questions about the harmful impact of institutional life on children’s
growth and development. He discovered that infants raised in institutions without adult physical
contact and stimulation developed severe physical contact and stimulation developed severe
physical and emotional problems.
During the 1960s behavior therapy emerged as a systemic approach to the treatment of child and
family disorders.
Behavior therapy focused initially on children with mental retardation or severe disturbances.
Psychoanalytic practices for these children were perceived as ineffective or inappropriate.
Behavior therapy has continued to expand in scope, and has emerged as a prominent form of
therapy for a wide range of children’s disorders.
Progressive Legislation
The Individuals with disabilities education act (IDEA) mandates free and appropriate public
education for any child with special needs in the least restrictive environment for that child.
They must have IEP (individualized education program) programed to them.
Abolish any legislation, customs, and practices that discriminate against persons with disabilities.
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