Psychology 251
Behavior Disorders of Childhood

Spring 2005

Monday & Wednesday 3:35 – 4:50 p.m.

Room 6411A, MHCS, Arnold (1 South Prospect Street)


Instructor:  Robert Volpe, Ph.D. 

Office Hours: Tuesday 3:30-5:00 p.m., or by appointment 

Office: 6411A MHCS, Arnold (1 South Prospect Street

Phone: 656-2266 



Course Objectives

The primary goal of this course is to increase student knowledge regarding social, emotional, and behavioral disturbances experienced by children and adolescents. Emphasis will be placed on a scientific, empirical view. Students will acquire knowledge about the nature, causes, developmental course, treatment, and prevention of a broad range of childhood disturbances including anxiety, depression, eating disorders, oppositional and aggressive behavior, delinquency, autism and schizophrenia. Physical illness, child abuse, brain damage and divorce will be examined as contexts and risk factors of these disturbances. Recent research on genetic and environmental factors will also be discussed. Concepts and ideas will be applied to case examples to illustrate the complexity of factors involved.



Most of the assigned reading will be contained in the text listed below. The textbook is available at the bookstore. Additional readings will be available on WEB-CT when they are assigned. Please keep the information card on how to access INFOTRAC that is in your textbook. Some of the additional readings are available via INFOTRAC.


Mash, E.J. & Wolfe, D.A. (2004). Abnormal Child Psychology, 3rd Edition. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.



There will be four non-cumulative exams. An equal weighting of your three highest exam grades determines your grade. Those three exams will include the final exam and the two other exams on which you score best; the test on which you score lowest will not be counted towards your final grade. The final exam is non-cumulative. You must take the final exam and it will count toward your final score. These exams will be in multiple-choice and short essay format and will cover both the readings and the lecture. It is important to note that much of the lecture information will not be in the book. You are responsible for material in any of the lectures and any of the readings listed on the syllabus or announced in class, but only for the chapters or pages assigned. In order to do well on the tests, you should keep current on the readings and attend class. It is very easy to get behind on the readings; you should have the readings completed prior to the class period for which they are assigned. Your letter grade will be determined as follows: The highest total score (based on the three best exams, i.e., final exam + 2 other highest scores) attained by any student in the class will become the reference score for grading. The student(s) with this highest total score will receive a grade of 100%. All other students will receive a percentage grade based upon this highest score, and the following scale will be applied:


90% & above = A
80%-89% = B
70%-79% = C
60%-69% = D
Below 60% = F


For example, if there were 100 possible total points, and the highest score attained by any student was 90, then 90% of 90 = 81; all students with total points greater than or equal to 81 would receive a letter grade of A. Similarly, 60% of 90 = 54; therefore, only those students with less than 54 total points would receive failing grades. This is not grading "by the curve;" with this system, it is conceivable that everyone could receive a letter grade of A. There will be no extra credit options


Extra Help

If you are concerned about your performance in the class, see the instructor and develop a plan to improve. Coming to me after the class is over will not result in a grade change. Grades will be changed only if a mistake was made in the grading of exams or the recording of grades. Help is available to you during the course in the form of my office hours or by making an appointment with me. I can help you with how and what to study. If you do not take advantage of this assistance, do not expect a sympathetic hearing when the course is over. If you do not attend class, you will have difficulty. Completing and understanding the assigned readings is essential to doing well in this course, but reading alone is unlikely to result in earning an "A" grade. Roughly half of material on exams is covered in the lectures only. 


Missed Classes and Make-up Exams

In the unfortunate event you should miss a class; you will have to borrow notes from another class member. You will also be held responsible for any changes or additions to the syllabus, which are announced in class. There are virtually no satisfactory excuses for missing an exam.


No make-up exams will be offered for missed exams. A missed exam is counted as your exam with the lowest score and therefore is the exam that is dropped before computing your grade. In the extremely unlikely event that more than one exam is missed, an alternative exam will be given only if prior arrangements have been made with the instructor. This make-up exam will be in essay and short answer format.  


Religious Holidays

Please notify the instructor if you must miss class or an exam because of a religious holiday. I try to schedule exams around major religious holidays. If, however, I have failed to do so, notify me in advance and a make-up exam will be arranged. Similarly, if you must miss class to observe a religious holiday, notify the instructor in advance and arrangements can be made to get lecture notes.


Disability Accommodations

Students requiring special assistance due to a disability are asked to contact the instructor during the first week of classes so that reasonable accommodation for the disability can be determined and arranged.


Tentative Schedule of Topics, Readings, and Exams (subject to change at professor's discretion). Changes will be announced in class. You are responsible for knowing what changes have been made. 




Assigned Reading

Week 1





Week 2





Issues in Abnormal Child Psychology


Theories and Causes of Abnormal Child Behavior


Chapter 1


Chapter 2

Week 3





Theories and Causes of Abnormal Child Behavior


Research in Child Psychopathology




Chapter 3

Week 4





Assessment & Diagnosis of Abnormal Behavior




Chapter 4 (pgs. 73-97)


Chapters 1-4 

Week 5





Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)


Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Chapter 5

Week 6





Presidents’ Day – No class!


Conduct Disorders and Antisocial Behavior




Chapter 6

Week 7





Conduct Disorders and Antisocial Behavior


Anxiety Disorders




Chapter 7

Week 8





Anxiety Disorders Mood Disorders


Mood Disorders




Chapter 8

Week 9





Mood Disorders






Chapters 5-8


Week 10





Spring Recess—No Class!!!


Week 11







Mental Retardation


Neisser et al. (1996)


Chapter 9

Week 12





Autism and Pervasive Developmental Disorders


Schizophrenia and Psychosis in Childhood


Chapter 10



Week 13





Communication and Learning Disorders




Chapter 11


Chapters 9-11 + article

Week 14





Health-Related Disorders


Eating Disorders


Chapter 12


Chapter 13

Week 15





Child Abuse and Neglect


Prevention and Treatment


Chapter 14


Chapter 4 (98-107)

Week 16





Prevention and Treatment


Future Directions






Chapters 9-14, and additional readings