Family Factors in Childhood Psychology

Toward a Coercion-Neglect Model
  • Robert G. Wahler
  • Jean E. Dumas
Part of the Applied Clinical Psychology book series (NSSB)


The weaknesses of psychiatric diagnosis in terms of reliability, validity, and treatment implications have been spelled out in the behavioral literature (e.g., Kanfer and Saslow, 1969). Even recent refinements in the most widely used diagnostic system (DSM-III; American Psychiatric Association, 1980) have been found wanting, particularly in reference to childhood psychopathology (Cantwell, Russell, Mattison, and Will, 1979). Simply stated, there are serious concerns about the utility of this classification system as it is applied to troubled children. These concerns reflect not only the obvious problem of interrater agreement in classifying child problem behaviors but also questions of how to proceed in helping the child once a diagnosis has been made. That is, does the diagnostic classification have any implication for treatment? Suppose that reliable and valid diagnoses of child psychopathology were available to a therapist. Although these would then permit a designation of treatment targets, other important questions would still remain unanswered: (a) If a category encompasses multiple response excesses and deficits, are some of the components more crucial change targets than others? For example, a particular skill deficit in phobic children might prove to be a “keystone” component of its category—keystone in the sense that improvements in that particular deficit are reliably followed by improvements in the other components. (b) Do the categories differ as to the consequences in the environment that control them? This question addresses the stability of child problem behaviors, or the prognosis for change in these behaviors. For example, the same behavior categories for two children might differ in the likelihood that they can be changed, depending on the environmental contexts of maintaining contingencies. Thus, for two similarly aggressive children living in quite different environments, different treatment strategies may prove necessary.


Child Behavior Child Problem Behavior Dependent Child Applied Behavior Analysis Overt Conduct 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert G. Wahler
    • 1
  • Jean E. Dumas
    • 2
  1. 1.Child Behavior InstituteUniversity of TennesseeKnoxvilleUSA
  2. 2.University of Western OntarioLondonCanada

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