IPT Book Reviews

Title: Child Psychiatric Epidemiology Concepts, Methods, and Findings  Positive Review
Editors: Frank C. Verhulst and Hans M. Koot
Publisher: Sage Publications, Inc. 1992

Sage Publications, Inc.
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(805) 4994)721
Price: $15.50


This is Volume 23 in Sage's series on Developmental Clinical Psychology and Psychiatry edited by Alan Kazdin.  The book has 156 pages including references and an index.  There are five short chapters and a summary chapter.  First the field of epidemiology and the significance of child psychopathology is surveyed and described.  The purpose of the book is set forth and the methods of epidemiological research are described.  Chapter 2 sets forth the aims of child psychiatric epidemiology.  Chapter 3 is a nice, but elementary, description of assessment and its utility.  Chapter 4 briefly sets forth the basic principles of sampling and the need to understand the relationship of sample to the population of interest.  Chapter 5 describes five major prevalence studies of child psychiatric disorder and their findings.


One of the major confusing areas in questions relating to child abuse is the epidemiology of the behavior.  There are bitterly contested claims and counterclaims about the prevalence and incidence of child abuse.  There are some who accuse the child advocates of dissembling and exaggerating numbers in order to achieve social change (Gilbert, 1991).  There are others who advance the assertions of a few retrospective surveys that suggest large numbers of people are abused.  There are some who believe there is an epidemic of child abuse while others say it has not increased in frequency but rather decreased.

A more complex and sophisticated role for numbers relating to the epidemiology of child abuse is base rates.  The book deals with the way base rates are established and their importance.  Also insofar as it provides the best information related to base rates of psychiatric disorders in children, it has great importance for concepts such as behavioral indicators and assessment procedures in dealing with allegations of child abuse.  Understanding the information from the prevalence studies in this book supports a more limited and realistic appraisal of the prevalence of child abuse.

This small and readable book can assist the non-sophisticated professional to sort out these competing claims.  It provides an excellent introduction to a complex and important issue that is conflictual.  Numbers are important and often decisive in policy debates and allocation of public resources.  All professionals who either generate or pursue policies relating to child abuse and those who make decisions about resources and disposition of individual cases should know the contents of this book.

Gilbert, N. (1991). The phantom epidemic of sexual assault. The Public Interest, 103, 54-65.

Reviewed by Ralph Underwager, Institute for Psychological Therapies, Northfield, Minnesota.

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