Developmental intervention: A pediatric clinical review

P. H. Casey, R. H. Bradley, B. M. Caldwell, D. R. Edwards

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


We have attempted to review developmental intervention for pediatricians in a way that is of clinical relevance to primary care pediatricians. In so doing, we chose not to evaluate certain topics such as therapeutic intervention for handicapped children or center-based educational programs because these have been adequately addressed elsewhere. It is clear that pediatricians have a unique and important role to play in developmental intervention for the following reasons: 1) pediatricians have easy and routinely accepted access to infants and families in the prenatal, perinatal, and preschool periods: 2) pediatricians possess a socially accepted role of authority; and 3) pediatricians can integrate understanding of the child's health and developmental status within the context of the family and social environment to make clinical interpretation regarding the child's developmental status and prognosis. Pediatricians are thus in the best position to convince parents of their impact on their child's development. The following general roles have been identified for pediatricians. First, pediatricians should be aware of the child's biologic status and family environmental situation and the relative degree of risk for developmental problems. This clinical awareness, in combination with the use of appropriate screening instruments of the child's development and family environment, will allow clinical judgment regarding the frequency and type of child health supervision, the need for further diagnostic evaluation, and the need for referral to intervention programs and other resources. Second, the pediatrician should develop an approach for developmental intervention for all children, whatever their degree of biological risk. This review of medical, educational, and psychological literature demonstrate the following recurring important themes as goals for primary intervention: Improve parental understanding of normal child development and developmental expectations. Assist parents' understanding of the individual developmental characteristics and temperamental style of their child. Promote parental sensitivity to the social nature of infant behaviors. Encourage parent responsiveness to the social behaviors. Improve parental feelings of confidence and competence to affect their child's development. Pediatricians can be influential in supporting structural changes that can have beneficial effects on children's development. Support of humanization of obstetric and nursery practices, and the increased use of child health supervision to parents in groups are examples of such efforts. In summary, pediatricians play significant role in primary and secondary prevention of developmental-behavioral problems. As with immunizations and routine dental evaluations, a prevention orientation should be established with parents regarding developmental-behavioral concerns, with pediatricians and parents as long-term partners in this process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)899-923
Number of pages25
JournalPediatric Clinics of North America
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1986
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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