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Conduct disorders in childhood and adolescence

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    Conduct disorders in childhood and adolescence. Edited by jonathan hill and barbara maughan (Pp 569, £39.95). Published by Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2000. ISBN 0 521 78639 8.

    This is an extremely interesting and informative book that does justice to the complexity of perspectives on child and adolescent conduct problems. It is evident that considerable attention was given to shaping this book, which succeeds in being more than a collection of papers on conduct problems. Individual authors have been careful to introduce their particular area of interest to readers unfamiliar with their field. For example, Herbert and Martinez's chapter on “Neural mechanisms underlying aggressive behaviour” is a lucid account available to a novice reader. Throughout the book there are discussions that refer to other theoretical perspectives, thus illuminating the theoretical, methodological, and clinical issues. Reading the book is rather like a mental brass rubbing in that the reader's patience is rewarded by the emergence of an increasingly complex but fascinating pattern of relations between biological, genetic, neuropsychological, social, interactional and psychological stand points.

    The book moves back and forth between chapters that contextualise, for example the historical perspective offered by Costello and Angold's chapter, to consideration of very specific mechanisms such as Lynham and Henry's chapter on the role of neuropsychological deficits and Petit, Pohlaha, and Mize's chapter on perceptual and attributional processes. Each chapter gives a critical view of relevant research and raises methodological concerns. The spirit of the book is captured in Hill's chapter on biosocial influences, in which he conveys a sense of curiosity about the interaction between biological and social phenomena and how that might be further investigated.

    Kazdin gives careful attention to treatment of conduct disorders in an excellent chapter. Le Marquand, Tremblay, and Vitaro consider issues of prevention and Knapp's chapter brings forward the economic costs of conduct disorder.

    In conclusion I return to the subjects of this work, the children and young people, and their families who experience great emotional distress and difficulty, very often in the context of socioeconomic hardship. Inclusion of qualitative research would have further enriched this book, by bringing their voices more directly into the important debates so elegantly presented. It deserves to become a standard work, available widely to all clinicians and researchers interested in this field.

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