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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
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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Chapter 1- Introducing Cause.

Chapter 2 -
Introducing Cognition.

Chapter 3 -
Representing Causal Relationships.

Chapter 4 -
Causal Accounts of Autism.

Chapter 5 -
The What and the How.

Chapter 6 -
Competing Causal Accounts of Autism.

Chapter 7 -
The Problem of Diagnosis.

Chapter 8 -
A Causal Analysis of Dyslexia.

Chapter 9 -
The Hyperkinetic Confusions.

Chapter 10 -
Theories of Conduct Disorder.

Chapter 11 -
Tying in Biology
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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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  • 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.
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"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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