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Developmental Neuropsychiatry. Vols 1 and 2. By James C Harris. (Pp 272; £99 hardback; vol 1 £38.95/vol 2 £60.) Oxford University Press, 1996. ISBN 0-1926-2764-3 (vol 1, 0-1950-6824-6/vol 2, 0-1950-9849-8).
Since 1984, when Developmental Neuropsychiatryedited by Michael Rutter was published, there has been a burgeoning of interest in this field both in the UK and the United States. The roots of child psychiatry in the United States concentrated on the child guidance movement and has focused more particularly on the psychosocial aspects of child development. This goes some way to explain the relatively late understanding that a neuroscientific perspective can give to developmental psychiatry. These two volumes from James C Harris are a welcome initiative into furthering our understanding of developmental disorders. Volume 1 provides a useful introductory framework to neural sciences, and how aspects of cognitive neuroscience inform our thinking on concepts such as emotion and attention for example. Throughout both volumes there is an emphasis on the developmental perspective, which is so important to our understanding of the emergence and continuities of such disorders.
In volume 2 there is a more formally structured review of neuropsychiatric disorders, prefaced by a section on current diagnostic tools available in all disciplines. Each topic is well presented and written, although one may quibble regarding the relative weight given to particular aspects. For example, the chapter on traumatic brain injury seemed remarkably brief in comparison with the evaluation of behavioural phenotypes. Certain parts of the texts reflect a particularly American perspective; in some of the chapters, particularly those on cerebral palsy and attentional problems, important research contributions from other parts of the world are surprisingly omitted. Nevertheless this is an important, very well presented, and highly readable work comprehensively covering the fascinating area of developmental neuropsychiatry.