Failure to Thrive and Preventive Mental Health: Knowledge Gaps and Research Needs

  • Dennis Drotar


Mental disorders and dysfunctional parent-child relationships which have substantial economic and psychological costs to children, families and society often begin in the earliest years of life (Rexford et al., 1976) and present both short and long-term hazards to physical and psychological well being (Lipsitt, 1979; Drotar, in press). In light of the increasing numbers of American children who are vulnerable to severe disruptions in early nurturing (Garbarino, 1977; Nagi, 1977), investigations of developmental processes which underly resilience to early parent-child relationship disturbances are of primary relevance to preventive mental health. To the extent that the environmental and biological risks associated with resilient versus dysfunctional psychosocial outcomes in infants at risk can be documented, knowledge needed to develop preventive interventions to ameliorate the effects of disruptive early experience on children will be enhanced. Unfortunately, most childhood behavioral disorders associated with maladaptive parent-infant relationships cannot be reliably detected during critical periods of early development (Call, 1983). Hence, the absence of objective markers which signal high probability of psychosocial risk has been a considerable obstacle to research and intervention with infants at risk.


Child Abuse Eating Disorder Foster Care Child Psychiatry Insecure Attachment 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dennis Drotar
    • 1
  1. 1.Case Western Reserve University School of MedicineUSA

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