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  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: May 2011

8 - Mental Health Intervention in Infancy and Early Childhood


Mental health intervention in the early years is a relatively recent development, spurred by increasing clinical and research evidence that emotional and behavioral disturbances in the first five years of life often involve more than transient developmental upheavals that the child will outgrow. It is increasingly recognized that these disturbances, if severe and enduring enough, may represent the earliest manifestations of clinical disorders that can become entrenched unless effectively addressed (Sameroff & Emde, 1989; Scheeringa, Zeanah, Myers, & Putnam, 2005). This chapter focuses on the factors that need to be addressed in providing effective mental health intervention to infants, toddlers, and preschoolers who are at risk for mental health disorders due to detrimental environmental circumstances. Mental health intervention for children with diagnosable neurodevelopmental or physical disabilities is outside the scope of this chapter.

There is solid empirical evidence to support the effectiveness of intervention programs in infancy and early childhood. As stated in “Neurons to Neighborhoods,” a landmark report from the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine Committee on the Science of Early Childhood Development, “The overarching question of whether we can intervene successfully in young children's lives has been answered in the affirmative and should be put to rest” (Shonkoff & Phillips, 2000, 10). The report goes on to caution: “However, interventions that work are rarely simple, inexpensive, or easy to implement” (10). This chapter seeks to elucidate the common themes that characterize successful mental health intervention in infancy and early childhood.

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Nature and Nurture in Early Child Development
  • Online ISBN: 9780511975394
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