• M. Mary Konstantareas, PhD, is Head of Research, Child and Family Studies Centre, Clarke Institute of Psychiatry and Professor, Psychology and Psychiatry, University of Toronto, 250 College Street, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5T 1R8.

  • An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Annual Conference of the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy, New Orleans, October 27–30, 1988.

  • The research discussed has been supported in part by the Ontario Mental Health Foundation, Grant No. 899-84/86.

  • A special word of thanks to my close collaborators Dr. Leon Sloman and Miss Soula Homatidis for their constructive comments.

Address all correspondence to Dr. Mary Konstantareas, Clarke Institute of Psychiatry, 250 College Street, Toronto, Ontario M5T 1R8, Canada.


Because of the well-documented effectiveness of paradigms which emphasize parental or family pathology in understanding and intervening with dysfunctional children, the temptation exists for applying them to other dysfunctional populations. Autism is a pervasive developmental dysfunction with life-long adverse sequelae for the child and family. This paper reviews evidence on the biological etiology of autism and other pervasive developmental deviations, and stresses the necessity for providing an early and accurate diagnosis for the family. The adverse implications of downplaying individual pathology and concentrating on parental or family dysfunction are then discussed. The natural evolution and specific components of a psychoeducational model for diagnosing autistic children and working with them and their families are then presented. Finally, some of the advantages of this multimodal, multidiscipline model in long-term work with these pervasively dysfunctional individuals and their families are considered.