Emotional Development in Atypical Children

By Michael Lewis; Margaret Wolan Sullivan | Go to book overview
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Emotional Competence in Children With Externalizing and Internalizing Disorders

Rita J. Caseye Wayne State University

Children who manifest psychopathology are commonly spoken of as having "emotional problems" or as being "emotionally disturbed." Theoretical work linking psychopathology to emotion processes as well as clinical observation of expressive behavior also suggest that emotion has an important role in childhood psychopathology. For example, anger, resentment, sadness, and fear can be diagnostic markers of different psychiatric disorders ( American Psychiatric Association, 1994). Nevertheless, little clinical research has explicitly focused on emotional characteristics of children with psychiatric disorders, or on how emotional aspects of development are involved in childhood psychopathology. Perhaps this is because some clinicians believe that the emotions expressed by children who have psychiatric disorders are not central to their difficulties, or that there are no discernible patterns in emotion processes that would provide insight into the children's psychopathology. Others suggest that the role of emotion goes well beyond being an expressive sign of difficulty (e.g., Cicchetti & Schneider-Rosen, 1984; Cole, Michel, & Teti, 1994; Gray, 1987). Rather, they see emotion processes as fundamental aspects of certain kinds of psychopathology.

Outside the arena of clinical research, particularly in the study of human and infrahuman development, there has arisen a rich literature examining individual differences as well as normal characteristics of emotional development. This body of work may have clear implications for clinical research, even though developmental researchers do not typically focus on clinical populations. To cite just one example, Eisenberg's empirical and theoretical


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Emotional Development in Atypical Children


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