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Understanding Developmental Disorders: A Causal Modelling Approach

ISBN: 978-0-631-18757-8
320 pages
January 2005, Wiley-Blackwell
Understanding Developmental Disorders: A Causal Modelling Approach (063118757X) cover image

Description

A long-awaited book from developmental disorders expert John Morton, Understanding Developmental Disorders: A Causal Modelling Approach makes sense of the many competing theories about what can go wrong with early brain development, causing a child to develop outside the normal range.

  • Based on the idea that understanding developmental disorders requires us to talk about biological, cognitive, behavioral and environmental factors, and to talk about causal relationships among these elements.
  • Explains what causal modelling is and how to do it.
  • Compares different theories about particular developmental disorders using causal modelling.
  • Will have a profound impact on research in the fields of psychology, neuroscience and medicine.
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Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgements viii

Chapter 1 Introducing Cause 1

Cause and public issues 1

Cause and individual events: ‘Why did Romeo die?’ 6

Some more reasons for not looking at individual cases 9

The need for a framework for thinking in 10

Creating a tool: the problem of notation 14

An example of the limits of language 15

An invitation to consider diagrams as a tool 18

A tool for representing causal relationships 18

Chapter 2 Introducing Cognition 20

One thing I do want you to believe 20

Reductionism 22

Can we rely on behaviour? 24

The IQ example: a note of caution 27

Why cause needs cognition 29

Chapter 3 Representing Causal Relationships: Technical and Formal Considerations 34

Categorizing facts 34

The causal notation 38

Starting a causal model for autism 41

Complications 46

Some easy stuff on cause and correlation 51

Other notations 54

Chapter 4 Autism: How Causal Modelling Started 67

The biological origin of autism 74

The role of cognition in defining autism 81

What is mentalizing? 86

The non-social features of autism: how to diagram ideas on weak central coherence in autism 89

Summary 92

Chapter 5 The What and the How 98

Ground rules of causal modelling 99

Chapter 6 Competing Causal Accounts of Autism 106

Representing the effects of environmental factors 107

Cognitive theories of autism 112

Chapter 7 The Problem of Diagnosis 133

Diagnosis and cause: relying on behaviour 134

The Spanish Inquisition example: the dangers of labelling 135

Problems of diagnostic practice 140

Variability 148

Changes over time: improvement and deterioration 152

The variability of the phenotype 153

On co-morbidity and the question of residual normality 158

To summarize 160

Chapter 8 A Causal Analysis of Dyslexia 161

The dyslexia debate: Is there such a thing as dyslexia? 161

The discrepancy definition of specific reading disability 164

Towards a cognitive definition 166

An X-type causal model of dyslexia 168

Competing theories of dyslexia 176

Non-biological causes 195

Other biological causes of reading failure 199

How do we sort among the options? 200

The relationship between acquired and developmental dyslexia 204

A theoretical update 204

Chapter 9 The Hyperkinetic Confusions 208

Drugs as diagnostic refinement 212

Types of theory 216

The problem of co-morbidity: conduct disorder and ADHD 218

The cognitive level 219

Sonuga-Barke’s dual pathway model 223

Summary 226

Chapter 10 Theories of Conduct Disorder 227

The violence inhibition mechanism (VIM) model 228

The social information processing model for aggressive children 231

The coercive parenting model of Patterson 235

The theory of life-course persistent antisocial behaviour 236

What does the application of the framework tell us about the theories? 244

Chapter 11 Tying in Biology 247

Relations between the cognitive and biological levels 247

Equivalence: brain to cognition 251

Causal influences from cognition to brain 253

Genes and cause: the end of behaviour genetics 255

Endophenotypes 264

Mouse (and other) models for human disorders 266

Chapter 12 To Conclude 270

References 273

Name Index 292

Subject Index 296

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Author Information

John Morton is the former Director of the Medical Research Council’s Cognitive Development Unit. He is now Visiting Professor in the Department of Psychology and Honorary Fellow of the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London.
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The Wiley Advantage


  • A review of competing theories about what can go wrong with early brain development, causing a child to develop outside the normal range.
  • Based on the idea that understanding developmental disorders requires us to talk about biological, cognitive, behavioural and environmental factors, and to talk about causal relationships among these elements.
  • Explains what causal modelling is and how to do it.
  • Compares different theories about particular developmental disorders using causal modelling.
  • Will have a profound impact on research in the fields of psychology, neuroscience and medicine.
  • A long-awaited book from the founder of the MRC Cognitive Developmental Unit, John Morton.
See More

Reviews

"What causes disorders of development? How can they be meaningfully defined? These questions have resulted in deeply entangled controversies. John Morton has provided a razor-sharp tool that cuts the Gordian knot. This tool uses a simple pictorial notation that leaves aside ambiguous and divisive words. It resolves entrenched but illusory oppositions between cognition and brain and between nature and nurture. It makes the confusing facts about autism, dyslexia, and other disorders fall into a new coherent pattern and invigorates the comparison of different points of view. This book is indispensable for anyone trying to understand cognitive development and its disorders." Uta Frith, Professor of Cognitive Development, University College London Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience<!--end-->

"In his compelling book, Understanding Developmental Disorders, John Morton applies a causal modeling approach to understanding the influences that biological, cognitive, behavioral, and environmental factors exert on the emergence of developmental disorders. Morton eloquently conveys a way of conceptualizing various theories of developmental disorders. This volume will provide an invaluable tool for students, practitioners, and those in academia. I highly recommend it as a must for all professionals striving to understand the origins and course of developmental disorders." Dante Cicchetti, Ph.D., Director, Mt. Hope Family Center


"Causal modelling of cognition is a new and original tool not only for thinking with precision about cognitive development and the ways in which it can go amiss; I can see this book having a revolutionary impact on developmental psychology. The causal-modelling framework is also valuable for exposing the kind of sloppy thinking about the causes of developmental difficulties that one sees so often in statements by journalists and politicians (the book contains many such examples). Simply and cogently written, this book is of great importance both for scientists in developmental psychology and for public-health professionals concerned with disorders such as autism, ADHD and dyslexia." Prof Max Coltheart, Scientific Director, Macquarie Centre for Cognitive Science, Australia

"John Morton's deep and wonderful book should be required reading for any serious student of cognitive development, as well as for any researcher concerned with developmental disabilities. In giving us a tool for thinking about the causal history of developmental disabilities, he offers profound insights into the nature of causality, the relations among different levels of analysis, and the causes of four developmental syndromes, including autism and dyslexia." Susan Carey, Professor, Harvard University

"Morton's lucid and highly readable book offers an excellent tool to clarify the field of developmental disorders as it stands and to point the way to the future." Trends in Cognitive Sciences, August 2005

"Morton writes from first principles but then, as the book progresses, assumes some psychological sophistication. He has a comfortable and conversational...style that has become unusual in scientific writing. It invites reflection, questioning and discussion and I found it well suited to putting across concepts." Tom Berney, Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, May 2006

“Morton’s causal modeling approach seems an innovative and insightful advance in examining and understanding the causes and diagnosis of pathologic conditions.” Psychological Record

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