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Dev Psychopathol. 1997 Fall;9(4):749-79.

Psychopathology as adaptive development along distinctive pathways.

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Harvard University Graduate School of Education, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.


Contrary to the standard assumption that psychopathology stems from developmental immaturity (retardation, fixation, regression), people diagnosed with psychopathology typically develop along distinctive pathways in which they build complex, advanced skills. These pathways are based on adaptation to trauma, such as maltreatment, or to problems in affective-cognitive regulation, such as those in autism. They do not fit normative developmental frameworks. Research has characterized several types of distinctive pathways, especially those arising from maltreatment; they are marked by normal developmental complexity but distinctive affective-cognitive organization. In one study sexually abused depressed adolescent girls admitted for treatment in a mental hospital described themselves-in-relationships with age-appropriate, complex developmental levels equal to those of both nonabused depressed girls and other adolescents. At the same time, they showed a powerful negativity bias contrasting with the positivity biases of other girls. Many of them produced dramatic switches in affective-cognitive organization across assessments contrasting with the similar organization showed by other girls. In another study toddlers from maltreating families showed a consistent negativity bias in play and representations of interactions. We show how to portray these distinctive developmental pathways through the example of Hidden Family Violence, in which people dissociate their private violent world from their public, good-citizen world.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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