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Developmental Psychopathology

Developmental Psychopathology is an exciting new sub-discipline that has emerged as the offspring of its two well-known parents: psychopathology and developmental psychology. The focus of this approach is to understand mechanisms of development and change. Central to the developmental psychopathology approach is the belief that the study of atypical development can inform our understanding of normal development and, conversely, the methods and approaches used in normative developmental science may shed light on the etiology and course of mental illness. By definition, developmental psychopathology requires broad, interdisciplinary training.

Many faculty in the psychology department and related departments share interests in the mechanisms of atypical development. There are a number of factors that make our program a particularly exciting place to study developmental psychopathology.

Student Interests
Students may pursue their interest in developmental psychopathology by entering the department through any area group (clinical, developmental, biological, social, or cognitive and perceptual sciences).

Developmental psychopathology is construed very broadly in our department. Rather than limiting related research projects to clinical populations of children, we take a life-span approach that includes infants, children, adults, and the elderly. In addition, students have opportunities to conduct research with community/epidemiological samples, non-human primates, and other animals. Thus, a strength of our department is the wide variety of populations and research approaches available.

Many psychology faculty have appointments and collaborative relationships with organizations, research units, and departments across the university. For example, Pollak and Goldsmith maintain laboratories at the Waisman Research Center, a large regional research center devoted to developmental disabilities. Caspi and Moffitt maintain research collaborations with the Department of Sociology, the Institute on Poverty, and research centers in New Zealand, Pittsburgh, and London, England. Coe is the director of the Harlow Primate Laboratory and Ryff is acting Director of the UW-Madison Institute on Aging. Davidson directs the Laboratory for Affective Neuroscience and the new Waisman Laboratory for Brain Imaging and Behavior. Gooding collaborates with the Mental Health Center of Dane County and the Mendota Mental Health Institute and Pollak collaborates with public health agencies such as the Department of Human Services and Child Protective Services.

The department provides a rich and broad array of courses of interest to developmental psychopathologists. Seth Pollak offers a seminar on Developmental Psychopathology that focuses on the theoretical and empirical underpinnings of the field. Core courses offered by the clinical faculty provide cutting-edge education in psychopathology. Faculty whose expertise includes typically developing children provide foundations in developmental psychology, developmental research methods, statistics, and psychological assessment throughout the lifespan. Current theories in developmental psychopathology rely heavily upon concepts such as the role of stress and the interplay of nature and nurture. Faculty expertise in research with non-human animals provides students with opportunities to study stress experimentally in ways that would not be ethical or feasible with humans. Among our diverse faculty interested in developmental psychopathology, students can gain experience with a variety of experimental research methods including: longitudinal studies and natural history, behavioral methods, computational modeling, behavioral genetics, psychoneuroimmunology, cognition and information processing, temperament, neuropsychology, psychophysiology, and survey methods.

Students with a focus in developmental psychopathology will find many colleagues among faculty in our companion departments. For instance, Roseanne Clark in the Department of Psychiatry studies parent-infant attachment. Ned Kalin, Chair of the Psychiatry Department, studies anxiety disorders using infant monkeys as a model. Mary Schneider in the Department of Kinesiology studies the effects of fetal alcohol exposure and stress during pregnancy, and Deborah Vandell in the School of Education, studies the effects of day-care. In the Department of Communication Disorders, Robin Chapman studies language development in children with developmental disorders and Ray Kent studies speech production in atypically developing infants. In many cases, collaborative research arrangements link Psychologyfaculty and graduate to these other campus resources.

Developmental Psychopathology Faculty:
Lyn Abramson
Avshalom Caspi
Christopher Coe
Richard Davidson
Hill Goldsmith
Diane Gooding
Seth Pollak
Carol Ryff

More Information on Developmental Psychopathology at UW-Madison:
population studied
research approaches
related graduate courses
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