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Developmental Psychopathology

Risk And Resilience

Understanding why some children develop disorders or maladaptation whereas other children develop normally necessitates considering a host of factors that may undermine or foster healthy adjustment. The search for these factors is guided, in part, by the notion that interdependency exists among parts in any system, that is, the principle of holism. Thus, in any system or unit of study, parts must be examined in the fabric of the larger context of the system. For example, the way parents interact with children is a key factor that affects children's development.

However, the impact of parenting practices on children is affected by other characteristics in the larger ecological context, including child or parent characteristics (e.g., temperament, personality), the quality of family relationships, and parameters in the community (e.g., neighborhood, schools, peer relations) and culture. Consequently, the effects and meaning of parenting practices must be examined in the context of the larger setting or ecology. For example, the effects of various parenting practices on children vary across different ethnic groups. Thus, although strict parental discipline styles increase children's risk for psychological difficulties (e.g., anxiety, depression, submissiveness, poor self-confidence) among white families, the same discipline styles pose little or no risk for children in Asian or African U.S. families (Chao 1994; Deater-Deckard et al. 1996; Steinberg, Dornbusch, and Brown 1992). A possible explanation for these findings is that the same parenting practices take on different meanings in families with different cultural backgrounds. For example, strict control may be interpreted as a sign of involved, caring, and effective parenting within certain ethnic and cultural groups (Chao 1994; Baumrind 1997).

Thus, child development is best understood as embedded in a variety of social and ecological contexts, including community, cultural, and ethnic contexts of child development (Bronfenbrenner 1979). By extension, both normal and abnormal development are regarded as a cumulative result of multiple influences originating in the child, family, and larger community or cultural setting.


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Marriage and Family EncyclopediaFamily Health IssuesDevelopmental Psychopathology - Risk And Resilience, The Complexity Of Risk Processes, Resilience And The Role Of Protective Factors