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Child & Adolescent Development: Overview

Review of "Concise Guide to Child and Adolescent Psychiatry"

By Mina K. Dulcan, D. Richard Martini, and Marybeth Lake
American Psychiatric Association, 2003
Review by Michael Sakuma, Ph.D. on Sep 24th 2004
Concise Guide to Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

I quite like the concise guide series.  This is the third that I have had the opportunity to peruse, and I am never disappointed with the breadth of information that can be held in such a tiny publication.  The series offers an abridged, practical and down-and-dirty description of their topic at hand, in this case, childhood psychiatric problems.

Child and Adolescent Psychiatry covers the basics of evaluation medical/psychosocial) and treatment planning, Axis I disorders usually first diagnosed in infancy, childhood or adolescence (i.e. ADHD, conduct disorder, OPD, separation anxiety disorder, Eating, Motor and Language disorders). The guide also describes Adult disorders that may begin in childhood or adolescence (i.e. substance abuse, schizophrenia, mood disorders, GID, and sleep disorders). Each topic has a separate section on epidemiology, etiology, how it is evaluated and treated. Developmental disorders such as retardation, autism and Asperger's disorder are also covered as are special psychosocial stressors that might be relevant such as divorce and abuse. There is a small appendix with resources for parents including good internet sites and recommended books, broken down by disorder/topic.

A strength of the book is that it has separate chapters for psychopharmacological treatment and Psychosocial treatments; these are in addition to the treatment sections for the specific disorders. The separate sections allow greater depth for these treatments, and side effects/contraindications are pretty well discussed.  I should say that I was pleasantly surprised with the section on psychosocial treatments. Being that this is a book geared for medically oriented-folk, I expected much more of a pharmacological spin on suggested treatment. I suppose it isn't a surprise that the section on psychopharmacological treatment contains more specific and targeted information; but the section on psychosocial intervention, though general, is ultimately accurate in coverage.

There are only two reservations that I have for this book.  First, there is little to no mention of the controversies surrounding the assessment and treatment of childhood psychopathology.  Psychiatric disorders are difficult to diagnose in children because of individual differences in developmental growth-speed.  Some theorists have argued that disorders such as bipolar, or ADHD, are over-diagnosed in children and reflect a socially sanctioned sedation option for frustrated and fatigued parents.   The specific arguments notwithstanding, I would have liked to see the different opinions laid out a bit more in this book.  Physicians need to be informed from all angles, especially in a debate as important as this.

The other weakness that I see with this publication is the fact that there are sections totally void of citation. Of course this would seem a natural consequence of making such a large topic concise and able to fit in your back pocket, however, after a factual statement is made in any context, good scientists are trained to ponder the source of the information.  Given that the road to understanding and knowledge is paved with error and bias, it would seem to me that this is an important consideration, especially in a guide jam-packed with "factual" statements.  To be fair, there were some references, but not enough to make me go away feeling that I had perused a scholarly piece.

In conclusion, I recommend this book for people who want to carry something small around for those times in line when you¹d like something useful to read, or as a basic brush up for some of the basic concepts in child psychopathology.  The book is surprisingly wide in coverage for its size but ultimately it lacks the detail of some of its larger competition.

 

© 2004 Michael Sakuma
 

Michael Sakuma, Assistant Professor, Psychology Department at Dowling College, Long Island, New York.

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