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Patricia Crittenden

Dr. Crittenden's academic degrees are in special education (M.Ed.) and developmental psychopathology (Ph.D.). She worked with Mary Ainsworth, one of the founders of the Bowlby-Ainsworth theory of attachment, John Bowlby (on the CARE-Index), and David Finkelhor on child sexual abuse. She was trained in both behavioural therapy and family systems therapy. Beginning with Mary Ainsworth and carrying on with many colleagues, she has developed the Dynamic-Maturational Model (DMM) of attachment and adaptation. Currently, her work is focused on preventive and culture-sensitive applications of the DMM to mental health treatment, child protection, and criminal rehabilitation.


How Exposure to Danger Affects Mental Development and Behavior and What We Can Do to Improve Adaptation

Our brains and the behavior they generate have evolved to promote our survival. Nevertheless, our infants cannot survive alone, either physically or mentally. Protection by parents fills the gap while the brain is maturing and learning increasingly effective self-protective strategies. Strategies develop across childhood, becoming quite complex by adulthood. When infants and children are exposed to too much danger too soon, their strategies are short-cuts to action. Because they are not able to understand fully, they learn some cue to danger and then act. That is protective, but not always accurate. In addition, sometimes a strategy that was appropriate in infancy or early childhood is not appropriate later. In both cases, a new strategy is needed. When the person cannot discover the need for a new strategy and learn the new strategy, intervention is needed. This presentation will explain how identifying strategies, rather than symptoms, and matching treatments to strategies, can improve the effectiveness of intervention.