This is the first in a series of two lectures. The second takes place on Thursday 3 November. There is also an accompanying one-day workshop on Friday 4 November.
In the 2016 Loebel lectures, Professor Essi Viding will use disruptive behaviour disorders as an illustrative example to introduce the challenges we face when we try to understand development of psychopathological outcomes. We classify disorders at the level of behaviour, yet individuals arrive at the same behavioural outcomes via multiple different developmental trajectories; a phenomenon called equifinality in the developmental psychopathology literature. A related concept is heterogeneity; we can find individuals with markedly different aetiology to their disorder within the same diagnostic category. The current diagnostic categories identify clinically disturbed functioning, but they do not identify a homogeneous group of individuals.
Getting better at individuating distinct pathways to a disordered outcome is only part of the challenge. Once risk factors for a specific developmental trajectory are identified, we still need to understand their modus operandi. There is no doubt that both biology and the social environment play a role in the emergence of psychopathology, but meaningfully studying their interplay is far from trivial. What are the key biological indicators of vulnerability and resilience? How can we isolate causal mechanisms? How do we model multiple social risk factors and their impact over development?
In Essi Viding's Loebel lectures, as well as in the talks given by speakers in the accompanying workshop, the following questions will be considered:
- How does 'latent vulnerability' (of either genetic or environmental origin) translate to a disordered outcome, or conversely what makes some individuals with 'latent vulnerability' resilient?
- To what degree are individuals agents in generating their own environmental circumstances?
- Do certain behaviours, which can appear disordered, represent adaptations to a specific social ecology?
The workshop will also involve discussion between the speakers and the participants on the following issues:
- what study designs can help us advance our understanding of the questions outlined above
- what implications can be drawn for prevention and treatment of psychiatric disorder
- what are the challenges of translating individual differences and group level data to bear on the treatment of a single individual