Children in Difficulty: A Guide to Understanding and Helping

Children in Difficulty: A Guide to Understanding and Helping

Children in Difficulty: A Guide to Understanding and Helping

Children in Difficulty: A Guide to Understanding and Helping


Written by two leading experts in the field, this welcome third edition of Children in Difficulty: A guide to understanding and helpingdiscusses some of the most common, yet incapacitating, difficulties that are frequently encountered by young children and adolescents.

This includes such topics as:

  • ADHD
  • disruptiveness and challenging behaviour in schools and classrooms
  • dyslexia and reading disability
  • eating disorders
  • oppositional defiance, conduct and attachment disorders
  • childhood depression
  • school refusal
  • developmental coordination disorder (dyspraxia)
  • less common mental health problems, such as bipolar disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder.
  • traumatic and stressful situations
  • drug and solvent abuse.

The third edition of this book includes brand new insights from the fields of genetics and neuroscience and ensures claims for the effectiveness of specific interventions are supported by rigorous, scientific evidence. By drawing upon high level scientific and clinical knowledge and distilling it in a way that is accessible to professionals from a range of child care disciplines, this book will be of significant value to those working in education, health or social care, and anyone who needs to be able to recognise and help children in difficulty.


There are few issues which can raise stronger feelings in the average person than those which relate to children. Be it outrage at their challenging behaviour, or distress at injury or neglect, adults quickly become moved by issues which involve children. Even more fascinating is the way that each person ‘knows’ how the situation or behaviour should be handled – and usually this means that the delinquent needs more punishment, or the hurt child needs more care. While such emotional responses are very understandable, they are not always the correct way to intervene in a situation to ensure that matters will be improved. A child’s functioning and development are influenced by many (at times, competing) influences, and any efforts to help must be informed by an understanding of these.

Influences upon development

Genetics and epigenetics

The genetic make-up inherited from their parents is increasingly seen as a significant influence on many diverse aspects of the child’s growth, development and ultimate functioning. The belief that problems located within the parents can be passed on to their children has been persuasive since biblical times. The advent of scientific study, and the work of Gregor Mendel, the Augustinian monk, gave a clear understanding of the principles of heredity, and prompted research into DNA and the chromosomes that are made from it.

Research into conditions such as Down syndrome has clearly shown that changes to the chromosomes can be responsible for some major, and sometimes profound, changes in functioning and development. However, research has also begun focusing upon the mechanisms and chemicals that take the information held in the DNA and translate it into the cell’s structure and function.

Studies of how interventions bring about their effect have shown that experiences influence the translation machinery of the gene, changing in some instances the expression of the gene and the genome itself. This is the essence of a gene x environment interaction. Trying to understand this process is the science of epigenetics.

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