O ne of us1 once defined behavioral pediatrics as "an area within pediatrics which focuses on the psychological, social, and learning problems of children and adolescents." That definition was criticized - and appropriately so - as being overly focused on problems and too narrow in scope.
There are a number of other aspects that need to be considered in any discussion of behavioral pediatrics. Prevention is one, and its emphasis is consistent with other aspects of pediatric care, as are the broader issues of child advocacy. There are also other psychosocial considerations that are not "problem-oriented," such as ward and clinic management and the interdisciplinary delivery of health care. Similarly, it is appropriate to include the pediatrician's own behavior in relating to children and adolescents, so that his interactions with his patients can have maximum effectiveness. And, last, the integration of the child and his family must be properly appreciated in any discussion of behavioral pediatrics.
Perhaps a better definition of behavioral pediatrics, then, might be "the branch of medicine that treats of the behavioral or psychosocial aspects of pediatric practice, teaching, and research." A more comprehensive definition has been proposed for behavioral medicine, which is clearly applicable to the field of pediatrics. Schwartz and Weiss2 define behavioral medicine as "the interdisciplinary field concerned with the development and integration of behavioral and biomedical science, knowledge, and techniques relevant to the understanding of health and illness, and the application of these techniques to prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation."
This issue of Pediatric Annals is composed of articles directed to broad psychosocial issues relevant to the health care of children and adolescents. It is the first of two issues on the subject. The topics reflect in part the interests and perspectives of the authors, who are or who have been associated with the Behavioral Pediatrics and School Health Programs at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. We hope that they can serve as general background for the reader and provide suggestions for further reading on specific problems the pediatrician will encounter in his practice.
1. Friedman, S. B. (guest ed.): Behavioral Pediatrics. Pediatr Clin. North Am. 22 (1975), 515-718.
2. Schwartz, G. E., and Weiss, S. M. Yale conference on behavioral medicine: a proposed definition and statement of goals / Behav Med 1 (1978), 3.