Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review

, Volume 8, Issue 3, pp 183–201 | Cite as

Defining the “Disruptive” in Preschool Behavior: What Diagnostic Observation Can Teach Us

  • Lauren S. Wakschlag
  • Bennett L. Leventhal
  • Margaret J. Briggs-Gowan
  • Barbara Danis
  • Kate Keenan
  • Carri Hill
  • Helen L. Egger
  • Domenic Cicchetti
  • Alice S. Carter


This paper presents the clinical/developmental framework underlying a new diagnostic observational tool, the Disruptive Behavior Diagnostic Observation Schedule (DB-DOS). The special importance of observation for clinical assessment during the preschool period is delineated. The developmental rationale for a multi-dimensional assessment of disruptive behavior in young children, including problems in modulation of negative affect and low competence is discussed. The ways in which the DB-DOS will elucidate distinctions between normative and atypical behavior during this developmental period via (a) the integration of qualitative and quantitative dimensions of behavior within a clinically-sensitive coding system, (b) the observation of child behavior both within, and outside of, the parent–child context and (c) the use of specially designed tasks to “press” for clinically salient behaviors are addressed. The promise of this new method for yielding a more precise, developmentally based description of the phenotype of early onset disruptive behavior problems and for providing a standardized clinical tool for observational assessment of disruptive behavior in young children is presented. Large-scale validation of the measure is currently underway.

Key Words

preschool disruptive behavior behavior problems developmental methods developmental psychopathology observational assessment 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, Inc. 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lauren S. Wakschlag
    • 1
    • 6
  • Bennett L. Leventhal
    • 1
  • Margaret J. Briggs-Gowan
    • 3
  • Barbara Danis
    • 1
  • Kate Keenan
    • 2
  • Carri Hill
    • 1
  • Helen L. Egger
    • 4
  • Domenic Cicchetti
    • 3
  • Alice S. Carter
    • 5
  1. 1.Institute for Juvenile ResearchUniversity of Illinois at ChicagoChicago
  2. 2.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of ChicagoChicago
  3. 3.Epidemiology and Public HealthYale UniversityNew Haven
  4. 4.Psychiatry and Behavioral SciencesDuke UniversityDurhamNorth Carolina
  5. 5.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Massachusetts at BostonBoston
  6. 6.Institute for Juvenile Research, Department of PsychiatryUniversity of Illinois at ChicagoChicago

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