Child and adolescent psychopathology by Wilmhurst (second edition) – Summary chapter 2

Multifinality should be understood in terms of protective and risk factors. Similar stressors can lead to different results as a result of protective or risk factors.

In longitudinal studies, people are followed and measured for a long period of time (e.g. 15+ years). These studies provide useful results but are very costly and often have a lot of attrition. In accelerated longitudinal studies researchers study several age groups at the same time and follow these groups for the next few years. This is faster than a longitudinal study but protects against cohort effects of cross-sectional studies.

Cross-sectional research refers to studies looking at different age groups at the same time and measuring these groups at one point in time. This does not provide information regarding developmental pathways and there may be cohort effects.

There are risk and protective factors across several areas of concern:

  • Academic problems.
  • Social or behavioural problems.
  • Child maltreatment.
  • Physical injuries.
  • Drug use.
  • Physical health problems.

The level of influence are individual (1), family (2), peer (3), school (4), community (5) and other (6). There are several common risk factors and protective factors that influence behaviour problems and school failure.

Environmental context

Risk factor

Protective factor


Poverty, ineffective school policies.

Adequate social norms, effective school policies.


Poor quality schools.

High quality schools.


Negative peer influence or role models.

Positive peer influence or role models.


A low SES, history of parent psychopathology, marital conflict and harsh or punitive rearing.

Positive parent-child relationship.


Early onset of problems or additional problems.

Good social skills, self-efficacy.


Direct or indirect stressful conditions.

Direct or indirect social support.

There are different levels in Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems theory:

  1. Inner circle
    This refers to a child’s individual make-up including genetics (e.g. newborn level of curiosity). Risk factors at this level include difficult temperament (1), low birth weight (2), birth trauma (3), intellectual level (4), genetic links to psychopathology (5) and the male gender (6). Protective factors may include normal ability and good health.
  2. Immediate environment (i.e. microsystem)
    This refers to a child’s family system. This can buffer or harm a child’s need (e.g. violence or social support). Risk factors at this level include maternal depression (1), insecure attachment (2), poor parenting style (3), domestic violence (4), poor peer relations (5) and academic lags (6). Protective factors include successful peer relations (1), involvement in extracurricular activities (2) and having supportive parents (3).
  3. Social and financial context (i.e. exosystem)
    This refers to a child’s context outside of the family environment. Risk factors at this level include poverty (1), unsafe neighbourhoods (2), lack of opportunities (3), limited access to healthcare (4), limited access to nutrition (5) and low parent education (6).
  4. Cultural system (i.e. macrosystem)
    This refers to the cultural context of the child. Risk factors at this level include being part of an ethnic minority (1) and a conflicting set of beliefs from the culture of origin (2).

Additional risk factors can have a multiplier effect.

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Summaries & Study Note of JesperN
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Childhood: Clinical and School Psychology – Article overview (UNIVERSITY OF AMSTERDAM)

This bundle contains all the articles needed for the course "Childhood: Clinical and School Psychology" given at the University of Amsterdam. It contains the following articles:

  • Child and adolescent psychopathology by Wilmhurst (