Concluding comments

Taking a developmental perspective to mental health issues should apply across the lifespan. Psychiatrists working with adults need to understand where their clients are coming from and where they are going to. They need to understand the pleasures and pressures that children bring to their parents, and where appropriate they should be considering the impact of parental illness on the children. The institutionalized separation of child and adult psychiatry (in terms of service delivery) should not lead to a separation in ways of considering the developmental context of presenting problems.

This chapter has shown that there are many small focused models of development that deal with discrete areas. Stage theories emphasize differences at different stages; social learning theories emphasize continuities on processes of development. As long as practitioners are aware that when they say a child is 'at a particular stage', this is but a rough guide to describing the child, that may be acceptable. It is when such models are taken literally that oversimplification leads to poor practice. There is no single overarching theory of child development, and while this may be inconvenient for examiners, it truly reflects the rich diversity of human development. By paying more attention to the interactions between biological, social, and psychological factors, a better understanding of healthy normal development will emerge. Empirical studies will help identify risk and protective factors which in turn will lead to better mental health promotion and more effective interventions when mental disorders manifest.

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