Childhood Psychological Disorders: Current Controversies by Alberto M. Bursztyn is the latest edition to the “Making Sense of Psychology” series. This series concerns itself with the psychological problems and challenges in the lives of today’s children and adolescents. The book was developed out of a need for a middle ground of sorts between mental health researchers and people of all professions who are concerned with the wellbeing of children and teens. Bursztyn aimed to write this book in a way that makes it applicable to many types of helping professionals including teachers, therapists, schools counselors, or even just concerned parents.
The book begins by discussing the idea of disability specifically in relation to young people. Bursztyn discusses how society reacts to the word “disability” and later goes on to talk about why this can be controversial among people. Bursztyn’s answer for this controversy is that it has been borne out of change; that our ideals about disability are changing; therefore it is creating controversy among researchers, therapists, parents and even children. Bursztyn goes on to discuss various dimensions and degrees of disability and gives us a contextual framework with which to hopefully understand this issue more clearly.
Chapter 1 discusses the idea of social integration for children with disabilities and their parents. Bursztyn tries to sort out for the reader the correct way to label these kids; to Bursztyn, disabled is not the correct term. Bursztyn also addresses parenting children with disabilities in this chapter as well.
Chapter 2 brings culture into the conversation on disability and childhood psychological disorders. By using examples and case studies, Bursztyn gives us a solid introduction into how culture influences and affects a child or parent’s experience of disability and the eventual treatment for such issues.
Chapters 3 through 7 explore specific psychological disorders among children including early onset bipolar disorder, autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and behavioral disorders. Bursztyn presents a wealth of research on current ideas about etiology and diagnosis, parental nurturing in autistic children, and unanswered questions that remain about ADHD.
Chapter 8 addresses the treatment that schools currently offer to children who are seriously emotionally or psychologically disturbed, and conversely, what happens when this type of treatment fails these children, as it generally does. Bursztyn provides some useful information regarding alternative therapies such as wilderness camps and therapeutic boarding schools. Finally, Bursztyn addresses current controversies around these types of alternative therapies.
Chapter 9 throws the reader a curveball when it begins to discuss the impact of food allergies on children’s development. At first this seems not to flow well with the rest of the book, but Bursztyn is able to tie in the information somewhat effectively by discussing the emotional effects of the development of food allergies and the influence on autonomy that it has for the child.
Chapter 10 gives the reader a small introduction to childhood gender identity disorder and the most common points of debate relating to this relatively new diagnosis. It provides helpful information to calm parents who may feel as though a gender identity disorder diagnosis in their child occurred because of something they did or didn’t do in their parenting. Bursztyn closes out the book with a chapter on disability in the context of family and schools, primarily discussing current and developing trends in special education in schools.
In the introduction, Bursztyn notes that the book was written for anyone who interacts with young people on a daily basis; to help them understand some of the growing trends in childhood psychological disorders. While I think this book would be great for a researcher or a therapist, I do not agree with Bursztyn that this book is applicable for parents, teachers and school counselors. The book uses a great deal of research to back up its claims, which is a positive thing, but when overdone it leaves the reader a little lost in the politics of research. Intentionally or not, the amount of research presented in this book, at times, overshadows Bursztyn’s own words, decreasing the effectiveness of this book.
While sufficiently presenting information on current diagnostic trends in childhood psychological disorders, the book lacks information about treatment and how to work with children who have these disorders. The small chapter about alternative therapies doesn’t go deep enough into solutions, but instead lingers in explanations of the disorders.
Overall, I think that this is a positive addition to the “Making Sense of Psychology” series, and Bursztyn does an excellent job of presenting sound facts about childhood psychological disorders. However, I would recommend this book only for those who are interested in the current trends in the research world, and not necessarily in real world implications of working with a child with a psychological disorder.
Childhood Psychological Disorders: Current Controversies
Alberto M. Bursztyn
Praeger: March 21, 2011
Paperback, 200 pages