Biological Issues Related to Emotional/Behavioral Disorders
The consideration of biological issues related to emotional/behavioral disorders is the basis of the biophysical perspective. This view of the individual emphasizes neurologic and other organic factors as the cause of behavior. If the cause of behavior is organic, then it would folllow that the ways of dealing with emotional/behavioral disorders would include nutrition, medication, and other medical interventions.
Recent work in three areas has made significant contributions to the biophysical perspective. First, an analysis of risk factors has suggested a significant relationship between physical and mental health. Second, studies of families with histories of alcoholism and depression have raised questions of genetic predisposition. Finally, medical technology has provided far greater insight into psychoneurology and various brain functions.
The prevention of placing children at risk for physical and mental health problems begins at the onset of pregnancy (Slavin, 1989). Physical problems, such as lead poisoning and poor nutrition, have been related to children's behavioral problems in school. The last decade has seen significant reversals in the general health indicators that affect children. Studies by Baumeister, Kupstas, and Klindworth (1990) suggested that without specific prevention efforts, a "biological underclass" of children, whose problems are related to poverty, a lack of prenatal care, and the prevalence of chronic illnesses such as AIDS and Hepatitis B, will emerge.
The risks to children of poverty have been described by Parker, Greer, and Zuckerman (1988) as "double jeopardy." The interaction of both biological factors and poor social support puts children at serious risk for emotional/behavioral disorders. Children living in poverty are biologically vulnerable due to prematurity, maternal depression, temperamental passivity, and inadequate early stimulation.
The term genetic predisposition is used to describe the likelihood that a particular characteristic present in the parents will be present in their child. Although the particular gene responsible for the trait (characteristic) has not been identified, its likelihood suggests that some emotional/behavioral disorders may be inherited, or, "run in families." For example, it is estimated that 30% of fathers and 20% of mothers of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder have the disorder themselves (Copps, 1992). Alcoholism and drug abuse may also be linked to genetic predisposition (Crabbe, MccSwigan, & Kelknap, 1985). The occurrence of schizophrenia, a very low-incidence disorder, has been studied in families. According to Paul (1980), the children of schizophrenic individuals are far more likely to have schizophrenia, and among identical twins, even those raised apart, there is the same incidence of schizophrenia.
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