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Compr Psychiatry. 2018 Nov;87:143-152. doi: 10.1016/j.comppsych.2018.10.014. Epub 2018 Nov 1.

Psychiatry and developmental psychopathology: Unifying themes and future directions.

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Department of Psychology, Nisonger Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities, The Ohio State University, United States of America. Electronic address:
Departments of Psychiatry and Pediatrics, Washington University School of Medicine, United States of America.
Department of Psychology, Brain and Mind Institute, Western University, Canada.


In the past 35 years, developmental psychopathology has grown into a flourishing discipline that shares a scientific agenda with contemporary psychiatry. In this editorial, which introduces the special issue, we describe the history of developmental psychopathology, including core principles that bridge allied disciplines. These include (1) emphasis on interdisciplinary research, (2) elucidation of multicausal pathways to seemingly single disorders (phenocopies), (3) description of divergent multifinal outcomes from common etiological start points (pathoplasticity), and (4) research conducted across multiple levels of analysis spanning genes to environments. Next, we discuss neurodevelopmental models of psychopathology, and provide selected examples. We emphasize differential neuromaturation of subcortical and cortical neural networks and connectivity, and how both acute and protracted environmental insults can compromise neural structure and function. To date, developmental psychopathology has placed greater emphasis than psychiatry on neuromaturational models of mental illness. However, this gap is closing rapidly as advances in technology render etiopathophysiologies of psychopathology more interrogable. We end with suggestions for future interdisciplinary research, including the need to evaluate measurement invariance across development, and to construct more valid assessment methods where indicated.


Developmental psychopathology; Equifinality; Interdisciplinary; Multifinality; Neurodevelopment; Psychiatry

[Available on 2019-11-01]

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