Childhood Disorders and Developmental Influences: A 10-Year Content Analysis of Two Prominent Journals

Bridget A. Walsh*, a, Amy R. Murrellb, Andrew J. Scherbarthbb, Chelsea Rae Kubiakb
a Department of Family Sciences, Texas Woman’s University, Denton, TX, USA
b Department of Psychology, University of North Texas, Denton TX, USA

© 2009 Walsh et al;

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Family Sciences, Texas Woman’s University, P.O. Box 425769, Denton, TX, 76204-5769, USA; E-mail:


Many scholars and practitioners prefer to use a developmental approach toward investigation and treatment of child psychopathology. However, the extent to which development is considered in childhood disorder research was unclear. Therefore, retrospective analyses were conducted of publications from 1996 to 2005 in a prominent abnormal child psychology journal (Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology; N = 472) and a prominent developmental psychology journal (Developmental Psychology; N = 926), to investigate the frequency of appearance of developmental factors and childhood disorders. Data on author affiliation and type, and acknowledgement of funding, were also analyzed. Our findings were consistent with a previous analysis; most studies were conducted by funded, university-affiliated researchers. Some disorders, including those typically construed as developmental in nature, (e.g., PDD-NOS) appeared significantly more in the abnormal than the developmental journal. Pathology was infrequently mentioned in the journal with a developmental focus. Implications of these findings are discussed. It is reasonable to suggest that the present analysis may lead to important changes in policy and resource allocation as relevant to children and their families.