Although faculty in the biobehavioral and developmental aspects of pediatrics has increased substantially in the past decade in response to needs in pediatric education, care, and research, there continues to be a serious shortage of those trained in the requisite methodology. With few exceptions, departments of pediatrics are not yet prepared to provide 3 to 5 years of rigorous fellowship training in behavioral pediatrics research under the mentorship of established researchers. This widely recognized gap between the need for a better understanding of the causes of behavioral and developmental morbidity and the capacity to acquire that knowledge through research led to the convening of a workshop in the future of behavioral pediatrics research held May 22 to 24, 1989, in Columbia, MD.

The range of intellectually stimulating presentations at the workshop provided a glimpse of the new frontiers in behavioral pediatrics that have been made possible by the recent advances in neurobiology, molecular biology, genetics, and other basic sciences. If time had permitted, equally inviting areas of investigation, such as maternal-infant interaction, family dysfunction, divorce, assessment of risk and health, the ecology of childhood, school reform, child abuse, intervention strategies, the nosology of behavioral/developmental problems, and disadvantaged youth could also have been highlighted.


The scientific credibility, coherence, vitality, and growth of any discipline, including behavioral pediatrics, require a theoretical base that serves to explain events, order observations, and generate new hypotheses for empirical research. Such constructs inform both the clinician and the investigator. Accordingly, a central goal of the workshop was to develop a clearer identity for behavioral pediatrics, one that encompasses a special knowledge base and arena of research interest.

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