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Developmental Psychopathology

The Transactional Nature Of Risk And Protective Factors

An assumption of developmental psychopathology is that humans are active agents in influencing their own development. Thus, children are not simply at the mercy of the family that raises them. Rather, the family is part of a transactional, developmental process that not only influences child development, but is also influenced by child development over time. For example, in explaining the development of childhood aggression, the early starter hypothesis stresses that the development of childhood aggression is set in motion by an escalating, reciprocal spiral of negativity and distress in the parent-child relationship rather than in the parent or child alone (Patterson and Yoerger 1997). In this reciprocal process involving an inconsistent parent and difficult child, the parent first responds to child misbehavior with aversive, hostile behavior. In reaction, the child, in turn, maintains or escalates the negative behavior. Sometime during this escalating cycle of negativity, the inconsistent parent eventually displays neutral or positive behavior toward the child as a means of escaping the aversive interaction. However, in the course of surrendering and ending the negative disciplinary bout, the parent inadvertently reinforces or encourages the intensification of child misbehavior. This process may eventually evolve into more persistent behavior problems. Thus, the development of mental health and disorder is an ever-changing product of the mutual, reciprocal influences between the child and his or her family and ecological 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