Published by
Wiley (2020-09-09)
Current material
Paperback / softback
Original language
Psychotherapy: child & adolescent

Understanding Abnormal Child Psychology

by Vicky Phares

In Understanding Abnormal Child Psychology, students will learn about both normative and abnormal development throughout children’s lives. Consistent with previous editions, several themes run throughout the book:  

  • Developmental psychopathology: Children's and adolescents' behaviors are on a continuum (from very adaptive to very maladaptive), with only the very severe ends of the spectrum being conceptualized as disorders.
  • Diversity, inclusion, and understanding: Special attention is given to issues of race/ethnicity, gender, family constellation, religious orientation, primary language, socioeconomic status, and physical differences to help students see the commonalities and differences of abnormal child behavior within a cross-cultural and international context.

New to the 4th edition

  • Completely revised in both structure and content to reflect the DSM-5
  • Increase coverage of risk factors related to long-term effects of sexual abuse and bullying.
  • Increased coverage of diversity to include new "diversities" that have emerged as important, i.e. transgender children
  • New research on suicide and suicide prevention


Vicky Phares is a professor of psychology at the University of South Florida. Her research looks at a variety of issues related to child, adolescent, and family functioning with particular interest in exploring the connections between psychopathology in fathers, mothers, and children, and on gender in relation to parenting, particularly as relates to anxious youth. Projects include the exploration of fathers' and mothers' involvement in therapy, mother-blaming, and racial/ethnic differences and similarities in families. She is currently exploring connections between parents' and children's prosocial behavior, with a specific focus on volunteerism.


Preface xix

Acknowledgments xxv

1 Conceptualizations of Normality and Abnormality in Children and Adolescents 1

Normality and Abnormality in Children and Adolescents 1

History of Understanding Abnormal Child Behavior 4

More Recent Diagnostic Classifi cation Systems 8

Reliability and Validity of Diagnostic Categories 13

Children in the School System 14

Disorders in the Future of DSM 17

Advantages and Disadvantages of the DSM-5 19

Diff erences between Categorical and Dimensional Understanding of Behavior 21

Prevalence of Children’s and Adolescents’ Problem Behavior 25

Epidemiological Rates Based on the Categorical Approach 25

Epidemiological Rates Based on the Dimensional Approach 28

How Children’s Environments Infl uence Their Behavior 30

Diff erent Perspectives on Problems 32

Troubled Families Rather Than Troubled Children 33

Summary and Key Concepts 34

Key Terms 36

Study Questions 36

Suggested Readings 36

Suggested Viewings 37

2 Theories of Normality and Abnormality in Children and Adolescents 38

The Importance of Theory 41

Psychodynamic Theory 42

Genetic and Biological Theories of Developmental Psychopathology 46

Behavioral Genetics 50

Behavioral Theories and Developmental Psychopathology 51

Cognitive Behavioral Theories and Developmental Psychopathology 52

Theories of Family Functioning and Abnormal Behavior in Children and Adolescents 54

The Influence of Social Context on the Development and Maintenance of Problem Behavior 56

The Overarching Theory of Developmental Psychopathology 62

Summary and Key Concepts 65

Key Terms 67

Study Questions 67

Suggested Readings 67

Suggested Viewings 68

3 Research Methods in the Study of Developmental Psychopathology 69

Research Methodologies That Are Utilized in the Study of Developmental Psychopathology 72

Experimental Designs 72

Quasi-Experimental Designs 74

Correlational Designs 75

Case Studies and Single-Subject Designs 75

High-Risk Designs 77

Behavioral Genetics Designs 77

Time Frame of the Research Study 78

Cross-Sectional Research 78

Prospective Longitudinal Research 79

Accelerated Longitudinal Research 81

The Actual Process of Research 81

Choosing a Research Topic and Identifying Hypotheses 82

Choosing a Sample 83

Choosing Psychometrically Sound Measures 84

Collecting Data 84

Data Analyses 86

Writing Up, Presenting, and Publishing the Results 87

Continuing the Research Process 88

Choosing Appropriate Samples of Participants 89

Quantitative Research and Qualitative Research 92

Areas in Need of Further Study in Developmental Psychopathology 92

Ethics of Conducting Research 93

Summary and Key Concepts 96

Key Terms 98

Study Questions 98

Suggested Readings 98

Suggested Viewings 98

4 Assessment and Therapeutic Interventions with Children, Adolescents, and Families 99

Assessments 99

Multiaxial Assessment of Children and Adolescents 102

Interviews with Children and Their Parents 102

Unstructured Interviews 103

Semistructured Interviews 104

Structured Interviews 107

Behavioral Assessment 107

Behavioral Observation 108

Functional Assessment 108

Self-Monitoring 109

Checklists and Rating Scales 110

Broad Measures 110

Measures of Competence and Adaptive Functioning 114

Personality Assessment 115

Personality Inventories 115

Projective Measures 116

Family Assessment 116

Assessing Intellectual Functioning and Academic Achievement 119

Educational Assessment 121

Neuropsychological Assessment 122

Therapeutic Interventions 123

Settings Where Interventions Are Conducted 124

Psychodynamic Therapies 126

Behavioral Therapies 128

Child-Oriented Interventions 128

Parent-Oriented Interventions 128

Cognitive Behavioral Therapies 131

Family Systems Therapies 132

Psychopharmacological Interventions 135

Effectiveness of Therapeutic Interventions 139

Prevention Programs that Work 142

Professional Ethics in Assessment and Interventions 146

Competence 146

Multiple Relationships 147

Informed Consent 148

Confidentiality 149

Summary and Key Concepts 151

Key Terms 154

Study Questions 154

Suggested Readings 154

Suggested Viewings 155

5 Risk Factors and Issues of Prevention 156

Temperament 157

Attachment 158

Genetic Predisposition 159

Parental Psychopathology 160

Parental Loss due to Death 162

Interparental Conflict 163

Child Physical Abuse 166

Child Sexual Abuse 169

Child Psychological Maltreatment 173

Inadequate Educational Resources 175

Poverty and Low Socioeconomic Status 177

Violence within the Community 180

Cumulative Risk Exposure 183

Summary and Key Concepts 184

Key Terms 185

Study Questions 185

Suggested Readings 186

Suggested Viewings 186

6 Protective Factors and Issues of Prevention 187

Characteristics within the Child 188

Adaptable Temperament 188

Effective Emotional and Behavioral Regulation Strategies 190

Good Cognitive Abilities 191

Positive View of Self (Self-Confidence High Self-Esteem and Self-Efficacy) 191

Other Protective Characteristics within the Child 193

Characteristics within the Family 193

Stable and Supportive Home Environment 194

Faith and Religious Affiliations 198

Other Protective Characteristics within the Family 199

Characteristics within the Community 200

Connections to Caring Adult Mentors and Prosocial Peers 200

High Neighborhood Quality 202

Effective Schools 202

Other Protective Factors within the Community 205

Characteristics within the Culture or Society 205

Summary and Key Concepts 206

Key Terms 207

Study Questions 207

Suggested Readings 208

Suggested Viewings 208

7 Depressive Disorders, Bipolar Disorders, and Related Problems 209

Anaclitic Depression and Failure to Thrive in Infancy 209

Masked Depression 210

Major Depressive Disorder 210

Prevalence Rates 213

Comorbidity 216

Course of the Disorder 217

Etiology 218

Treatment 222

Prevention 226

Child and Adolescent Suicide 228

Bipolar Disorder 235

Depression Conceptualized in a Dimensional Manner 240

Risk Factors 242

Protective Factors 244

Summary and Key Concepts 246

Key Terms 247

Study Questions 248

Suggested Readings 248

Suggested Viewings 248

8 Anxiety Disorders, Obsessive–Compulsive and Related Disorders, and Trauma- and Stressor-Related Disorders and Problems 249

Separation Anxiety Disorder 251

Prevalence Rates 253

Selective Mutism 253

Prevalence Rates 253

Specific Phobia 254

Prevalence Rates 256

Social Anxiety Disorder 257

Prevalence Rates 258

Generalized Anxiety Disorder 259

Prevalence Rates 259

Obsessive–Compulsive Disorder 260

Prevalence Rates 262

Hoarding Disorder 263

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder 265

Prevalence Rates 267

Adjustment Disorder 267

All Anxiety Disorders, Obsessive–Compulsive and Related Disorders, and Trauma- and Stressor-Related Disorders of Childhood and Adolescence 268

Comorbidity 269

Course of the Disorder 269

Etiology 270

Treatment 274

Prevention 279

Anxiety Conceptualized in a Dimensional Manner 282

Risk Factors 283

Protective Factors 284

Summary and Key Concepts 285

Key Terms 287

Study Questions 287

Suggested Readings 287

Suggested Viewings 287

9 Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and Related Problems 288

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder 288

Prevalence Rates 294

Comorbidity 298

Course of the Disorder 302

Etiology 304

Treatment 309

Prevention 318

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Conceptualized in a Dimensional Manner 319

Risk Factors 319

Protective Factors 322

Summary and Key Concepts 322

Key Terms 323

Study Questions 323

Suggested Readings 323

Suggested Viewings 324

10 Disruptive and Conduct Disorders and Related Problems 325

Oppositional Defiant Disorder 325

Prevalence Rates 328

Conduct Disorder 329

Prevalence Rates 332

Antisocial Personality Disorder 333

Oppositional Defiant Disorder and Conduct Disorder 334

Comorbidity 335

Courses of the Disorders 336

Etiology 339

Treatment 344

Prevention 349

Oppositional Problems and Conduct Problems Conceptualized in a Dimensional Manner 351

Risk Factors 352

Protective Factors 354

Summary and Key Concepts 355

Key Terms 356

Study Questions 356

Suggested Readings 357

Suggested Viewings 357

11 Alcohol and Substance Use Disorders and Problems 358

Alcohol and Substance Use Disorders 358

Prevalence Rates 361

Comorbidity 365

Course of the Disorder 366

Etiology 367

Treatment 371

Prevention 376

Alcohol and Substance Use Conceptualized in a Dimensional Manner 379

Risk Factors 381

Protective Factors 384

Nicotine 385

Summary and Key Concepts 387

Key Terms 388

Study Questions 388

Suggested Readings 388

Suggested Viewings 388

12 Autism Spectrum Disorder and Schizophrenia 389

Autism Spectrum Disorder 389

Prevalence Rates 395

Comorbidity 396

Course of the Disorder 398

Etiology 401

Treatment 402

Prevention 405

Autism Spectrum Disorder Conceptualized in a Dimensional Manner 406

Risk Factors 407

Protective Factors 407

Schizophrenia 408

Prevalence Rates 409

Comorbidity 409

Course of the Disorder 410

Etiology 410

Treatment 412

Prevention 413

Schizophrenia Conceptualized in a Dimensional Manner 414

Risk Factors 414

Protective Factors 415

Summary and Key Concepts 415

Key Terms 416

Study Questions 416

Suggested Readings 417

Suggested Viewings 417

13 Specific Learning Disorders and Intellectual Disability 418

Specific Learning Disorders 419

Prevalence Rates 422

Comorbidity 424

Course of the Disorder 426

Etiology 427

Treatment 430

Prevention 434

Specific Learning Disorders and Learning Problems Conceptualized in a Dimensional Manner 435

Risk Factors 436

Protective Factors 437

Intellectual Disability 441

Prevalence Rates 444

Comorbidity 445

Course of the Disorder 447

Etiology 449

Treatment 451

Prevention 452

Intellectual Disability Conceptualized in a Dimensional Manner 454

Risk Factors 455

Protective Factors 455

Summary and Key Concepts 456

Key Terms 457

Study Questions 457

Suggested Readings 458

Suggested Viewings 458

14 Pediatric Psychology and Health Psychology for Children and Adolescents 459

Pediatric Psychology 459

Eating Disorders and Obesity 461

Anorexia Nervosa 462

Bulimia Nervosa 463

Comorbidity of Eating Disorders 465

Course of the Disorders 466

Etiology of Eating Disorders 466

Treatment of Eating Disorders 467

Prevention of Eating Disorders 468

Dimensional Conceptualizations of Body Image Problems 469

Obesity 470

Elimination Disorders 475

Enuresis 475

Encopresis 478

Dimensional Conceptualizations of Elimination Disorders 480

Chronic Illness in Children and Children’s Well-Being 480

Juvenile-Onset Diabetes 481

Sickle Cell Disease 482

Childhood Cancer 484

HIV/AIDS in Children and Adolescents 486

Chronic Illness in Parents and Children’s Well-Being 489

Parental Cancer 489

Parental HIV/AIDS 490

Treatment Issues in Pediatric Psychology 491

Prevention Issues in Pediatric Psychology 492

Summary and Key Concepts 494

Key Terms 495

Study Questions 495

Suggested Readings 496

Suggested Viewings 496

15 Ways to Help Children 497

How Nonprofessionals and Paraprofessionals Can Help Children 497

Transitioning from a Paraprofessional to a Professional 500

How Having a Career in Psychology Can Help Children 502

Ph.D. or Master’s in Clinical Psychology 503

Psy.D. in Clinical Psychology 510

Ph.D. in Experimental Psychopathology 511

Ph.D. Ed.D. or Master’s in Counseling Psychology 511

Ph.D. or Master’s in Developmental Psychology 512

How Having a Career in Social Work Can Help Children 512

Bachelor’s of Social Work 512

Master’s of Social Work 513

Doctorate of Social Work 513

How Having a Career in Education Can Help Children 513

Teachers 513

Special Education Teachers 514

Guidance Counselors 514

School Psychologists and Educational Specialists 514

Other Professionals 515

How Having a Career in Medicine Can Help Children 515

Psychiatric Nurses 515

Psychiatrists 516

Developmental Pediatricians 517

Other Professionals 518

How Having a Career in the Judicial Justice System Can Help Children 519

School Resource Officers 519

Criminologists 520

Forensic Psychologists 520

Attorneys and Judges 520

How Having a Career in Prevention Can Help Children 521

Summary and Key Concepts 521

Key Terms 522

Study Questions 523

Suggested Readings 523

Suggested Viewings 523

References R-1

Glossary G-1

Index I-1

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