Handbook of Psychological Services for Children and Adolescents

By Jan N. Hughes; Annette M. La Greca et al. | Go to book overview

2
Implications of a Developmental
Systems Model for Preventing and
Treating Behavioral Disturbances
in Children and Adolescents
ROBERT C. PIANTA

Early detection of risk and the design and delivery of risk-reducing and healthpromoting interventions are essential functions for child and adolescent psychologists (Adelman & Taylor, 1998; Carlson, Tharinger, Bricklin, DeMers, & Paavola, 1996), in addition to traditional functions such as diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders. A theory of behavior change and of the ways in which schools, families, therapists, and other contexts figure in behavior change is essential to achieving a comprehensive system of mental-health promotion for children and adolescents. One source of ideas on behavior change that has until recently received fairly limited attention from applied child and adolescent psychologists is developmental theory (Tharinger & Lambert, 1998)—in particular, developmental systems theory, in which the role of contexts with respect to developmental processes is explicitly illuminated.

Developmental systems theory (e.g., Ford & Lerner, 1992; Sameroff, 1995) has certain advantages for understanding the ways in which developmental resources present in a variety of contexts (home, school, neighborhood, therapy) can be located and harnessed both before (prevention) and after (remediation) the emergence of serious behavioral disturbance. Developmental systems theory offers a way to think about the multiple inputs that shape development across domains of mental health, achievement, and socialization outcomes and, in particular, describes overarching principles by which contexts influence these outcomes. In turn, these principles provide child and adolescent psychologists with a set of ideas to guide practice, recognizing that the essential features of practice with children and adolescents involve observation and manipulation of the interdependencies of context and child behavior (see Nastasi, 1998, for more details).

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