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The Concept of Development in Developmental Psychopathology


  • Preparation of this work and the research described therein were supported by a National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Grant (HD054850-01). The article is based on the G. Stanley Hall Award Address presented at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association at San Francisco, California, August, 2007.

concerning this article should be addressed to L. Alan Sroufe, Institute of Child Development, University of Minnesota, 51 East River Road, Minneapolis, MN 55455; e-mail:


Abstract— So important is the perspective of development for understanding psychopathology that it spawned a new discipline—“developmental psychopathology”—which has seen remarkable advances since its introduction but has yet to completely fulfill its promise. To do this requires maintaining a thoroughgoing developmental perspective. When development is taken seriously, there are implications for how to understand psychopathology, describe and conceptualize the origins and course of disorder, and interpret research findings. From this perspective, disorders are complex products of development; for example, neurophysiological associates of disorder can be viewed not as causes but as markers, the development of which needs to be understood. Research on developmental psychopathology requires an examination of the history of problem behavior from early in life, and it unites multiple features of adaptation and maladaptation (contextual, experiential, physiological, and genetic).