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Clinical Child Psychology

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Within the roots of clinical psychology lie the beginnings of clinical child psychology. Please discuss these roots with focus on the psychologists who paved the way for the field of clinical child psychology.

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Solution Summary

This solution covers a brief history of clinical child psychology, including descriptions of how it has shaped modern practice when dealing with childhood disorders, and how it may impact future views.

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Within the roots of clinical psychology lie the beginnings of clinical child psychology. Lightner Witmer is often thought of as the first true Clinical Psychologist, and a majority of his work revolved around children. His first official clinical case was to assist a student referred by his teacher due to spelling problems. Later in his work, Witmer offered a course on Child Psychology focusing on case presentations, lessons in diagnostic testing, and demonstrations of remedial procedures. In 1900, three children a day were being helped by his clinical staff, and by 1907 Witmer had set up a residential school for training and guidance of mentally handicapped children (Nietzel, Bernstein, and Milich (1998).

Reflecting historical views of childhood, Witmer as well as other clinicians of his time viewed children somewhat as miniature adults, based only on their biased memories. Clinicians overlooked children's unique behavioral disorders, taking an adult oriented perspective and approach when attempting to help children. G Stanley Hall and Arnold Gesell developed beginning theories of child behavior based merely on evolutionary ideas, but did help launch a normative approach to child study while investigating normal behavior of large numbers of children (Berk, 1997). Children's behavior and problems were not commonly thought of being separate and unique to them until publication of DSM II (1968), when a few disorders unique to children were included. Since 1970, several new major journals have surfaced devoted entirely to research within the realm of children's behavioral disorders. In the DSM III, childhood disorders received broad coverage in the official classification system including developmental considerations (Nietzel et al. 1998; Sue, Sue, and Sue 2000). Adult models of psychopathology were no longer the only basis of understanding children.

Today's approach to children's behavior is based on child-centered approaches. The current DSM IV contains more than two-dozen Axis I disorders specific to children. Also, the American Psychological Association's division 12 (Clinical Psychology) has two sects devoted to children. A newer field of expertise, Developmental Psychopathology has come about focused on studying childhood disorders from a more developmental perspective (Nietzel et al. 1998).

Why have these changes come about? Psychopathology can be detected in childhood, and may have lifetime consequences for the child, as well as their family and society. Adult disorders have their roots in childhood disorders, and this idea is becoming more accepted in modern society.

Behavior of children must be considered in light of their developmental stage to determine what is normal and what is questionable. Infant temperament views the different behavioral styles of infants in relation to later childhood and conduct problems that might arise later in life. Also, parent-child ...

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