In Christianity and Developmental Psychopathology, the editors Kelly Flanagan and Sarah Hall combine developmental psychology with a Christian perspective. This book is another example of interdisciplinary work that aims to connect pastoral counseling with psychology and therapy. Psychopathology, in particular, is an interesting field of studies because it relates to abnormal cognition and behavior and ways in which it develops. The editors of this book established their credentials to support their qualifications for writing this book. The authors and editors of Christianity and Developmental Psychopathology offer practitioners to look at psychopathology of children from a developmental perspective.
The most significant insight from this book was the link between the theological perspective of child value and choice with the scientific perspective of valuing the process of one’s development. In terms of psychopathology, this work is fundamental in terms of linking the issues faced by troubled children to a developmental perspective. The premise of Christianity and Developmental Psychopathology is that children, even when they display troubling behavior, should be viewed as dividend gifts, and their actions cannot be examined separately from the environment where they live.
Premise For Writing This Book
The fact that this book is the work of multiple authors and editors is one example of why I believe that the research done to prepare the material was through. In a way, this approach to writing a book reminds me of a peer-reviewed article in a specialized journal where editors select the best works in a given field for publications. Although it is evident that each author most likely did not read the articles written by others, the editors clearly reviewed all the works and worked on creating material that a reader can comprehend integrally. Moreover, Flanagan and Hall have done a great job integrating materials from different authors because I was able to read the book in sequence. The material is grouped in a way that allows comprehending the relationship between different stages of development.
The authors of Christianity and Developmental Psychopathology” established their premise for writing on the topic of developmental psychology and theology in the introduction section. For this book, Hall and Flanagan partnered with multiple authors, which suggests that they were thorough in their research. The editors are qualified as well, for example, Flanagan is a professor of psychology at Wheaton College, while Hall is an Assistant professor at the same institution (Flanagan and Hall, 10). Hence, they write on this topic because psychopathology is their field of interest and professional work. However, the authors do not clearly outline the premise for choosing Christianity as another core topic for their book. One could argue that providing an outline of their experience or background in theology would be helpful in understanding why this topic was selected.
One thing that lacks in this book is a more clinically structured approach, such as a brief protocol, assessment techniques, and potential implications of treatment. Although the authors and editors explain child development in-depth and incorporate the trajectories of development that may cause trouble, a clinical professional may want to have a more structured way of addressing these problems. However, the editors included treatment approaches from different fields of psychology, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, behavioral and family systems methods (Flanagan and Hall, 15). Therefore, this book is not a manual but rather a collection of works, which is helpful but could be edited with some practical advice and material for working with children.
I perceive working with children is very challenging because there is a huge amount of responsibility to help this child develop normally or overcome some cognition issues they have already developed. In essence, this cooperation between a child and a mental health professional can influence the entirety of their life in the future, which is why I think that books such as Christianity and Developmental Psychopathology are a must-read for anyone who counsels children. I think that my approach is consistent with the Christian view of children as “divine gifts,” which Flanagan and Hall also refer to in their work (10). Hence, this work is not merely a textbook or reference for how to approach working with children, instead, it is a collection of works that review religion and psychopathologies in alignment.
In this first chapter, the editors explain the meaning of sin in relation to maladaptive behavior. When seeing sin as a result of having a broken relationship, for instance, with God or others, Hall and Flanagan describe therapy as a “place to emulate grace” (37). With this book, the reader is offered to review the relationship between wellness and disorder holistically. The sociocultural, biological, and psychological concepts are all combined by the authors and editors to examine how wellness and disorders develop. Hence, the first important consideration of this study is the idea that when working with children, one must review their struggles or troubled behavior holistically. According to Flanagan and Hall, “developmental psychopathology represents a holistic theoretical framework that incorporates considerations of biological, sociocultural, and psychological influences” (11).
The holistic approach to psychopathology is the central idea of this book. In essence, a child is born with their innate characteristics, and their development is affected by these qualities and their interactions with the environment. Understanding that a child’s interactions with different environments are important is the key idea discussed in Chapter 1 of the book and is something that anyone in contact with children should understand.
Another important aspect of this book is viewing children as persons instead of approaching communication with them as inferior. When using a Christian perspective, it becomes apparent that children are created in God’s image and should be respected, however, there are many instances that are discussed by Flannigan and Hall or that I witnessed when children are treated as unworthy. Instead, they must be provided with empathy and personhood, as well as mutually, since children should not be forced to feel like inferiors to adults.
Temperament and emotional regulation are central to the formation of a healthy individual. Flanagan and Hall examine these two aspects from the perspective of psychopathology, and it is helpful that the authors explore two perspectives: the normal development of temper and emotional regulation and the abnormal one because the latter perspective helps one understand how mistakes in interactions with children can affect their life and mental health.
This book allows reviewing the different relationships that a child develops, such as the marital triad, the relationships with peers, and parent-child relationships. Next, this book helped me develop and understand three core themes of working with children: they should be respected as persons, valued as gifts, and perceived as agents. These three aspects are the main themes that the editors tried to convey when exploring the different aspects of relationships that children develop.
Interestingly, the editors were able to find a comprehensive link that connects modern theology and developmental psychology — the respect for children. Moreover, the book acknowledges that raising a child may be a challenge for the parents as well, by referring to one mother’s description of the process as a “spiritual practice” and “contemplation in the midst of chaos” (Flanagan and Hall, 20). Mainly, an important revelation from this book for me is the fact that interactions with children require one to face internal chaos, which is undoubtedly a challenge. Viewing children as chaos and as a challenge to personal interaction with them, as they have to face their integral struggles is a new idea that explains why many people choose to approach children as inferior or build simplistic relationships with them, where children are not treated as individuals but rather as inferiors to adults.
With this book, I was able to review the Bible’s writings and reconsider my approach to working with children. Mainly, Flanagan and Hall refer to the way Jesus treated children as a good example, or the need to respect the neighbor and attend to the sick as some of the core principles in Christianity (15). In the Bible, children are described in their duality, for example, in some cases, they are portrayed as a blessing from God, while in others, their foolishness is the core feature of a story. This prompts one to respect the fact that while children should be treated as persons, equally to adults, they can act foolishly at times or be emotionally unstable, and these states should also be respected since they are a part of their development.
In the introduction, the editors argue that no other work they are aware of has addressed the issue of psychopathology from a Christian Perspective. However, developmental psychology, in general, was first introduced in the 1980s, and it is questionable whether no academic work has been done in this field to combine the understanding of the development and Christian values. It is possible that the authors meant to say that their book is the first work that integrates the vast amount of material on the topic of developmental psychology and theology, which may be correct, however, there are articles on these topics that were published prior.
In addition, when referring to the therapy as a way of “emulating grace,” the editors do not address the process of healing (Flanagan and Hall, 37). Mainly, therapy is a process, not a single action or a revelation, which requires continuous input from a counselor and an individual. However, since the authors provide a thorough overview of interventions and treatment methods, one can assume that such a claim is merely a reference to the Bible and does not intend to undermine the process required for addressing mental health struggles.
In summary, reading this book has prompted me to reflect on the different aspects of child development and how relationships with children shape their future. For me, developmental psychology is a challenging field, and I would recommend anyone who works with children, a counselor, or a local minister, to review as many books and articles on child development as they can to ensure that they can approach potential developmental issues correctly. Hence, I would argue that this book is a must-read for these individuals, and I would recommend it to my colleagues. Moreover, I think that the main value of this book is the emphasis on the value of children and on viewing them as gifts from God, even in cases when they cause trouble or have some mental health issues.
In general, I would recommend this book to people who want to understand more about developmental psychology from a Christian perspective. Moreover, I would argue that this is a must-read for counselors who work with children. Mainly, this book helps explain the different aspects of how children become troubled and ways of addressing these issues holistically by creating a proper environment and valuing the child.
Developmental psychology, in general, is a field of research that helps mental health professionals understand how people develop and how changes occur throughout the lifespan. When working with religious people, it is especially important to consider how psychological theories can be fit into the frame of theology.
I would also recommend this book for parents who want to gain an advanced understanding of the best way to interact with their children or to those who have troubled children and want to find a way of interacting with them. Although this book is intended for clinical professionals, the integration of a Christian perspective, such as valuing the child and respecting their personhood, are concepts that can be easily grasped by any person familiar with the religion. In combination with the class content, this book helped me comprehend how emotional regulation serves as an essential process of adaptation for children and how impaired emotional regulation results in psychopathology development.
Flanagan, Kelly, and Sarah Hall, editors. Christianity and Developmental Psychopathology. Foundations and Approaches: Downers Grove, 2004.