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Dynamic systems methods for models of developmental psychopathology


A survey of dynamic systems (DS) methods appropriate for testing systems-based models in developmental psychopathology is provided. The rationale for developing new methods for the field is reviewed first. In line with other scholars, we highlight the fundamental incompatibility between developmentalists' organismic, open systems models and the mechanistic research methods with which these models are tested. Key DS principles are explained and their commensurability with developmental psychopathologists' core theoretical concerns are discussed. Next, a survey of research designs and methodological techniques currently being used and refined by developmental DS researchers is provided. The strengths and limitations of each approach are discussed throughout this review. Finally, we elaborate on one specific dynamic systems method, state space grids, which addresses many of the limitations of previous DS techniques and may prove most useful for the discipline. This approach was developed as a middle road between DS methods that are mathematically heavy on the one hand and purely descriptive on the other. Examples of developmental and clinical studies that have applied state space grids are reviewed and suggestions for future analyses are made. We conclude with some implications for the application of this new methodology for studying change processes in clinical research.

Corresponding author
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Isabela Granic, PhD, Research Scientist, Community Health Systems Resource Group, The Hospital for Sick Children, 555 University Avenue, Toronto, ON M5G 1X8, Canada. E-mail:
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Development and Psychopathology
  • ISSN: 0954-5794
  • EISSN: 1469-2198
  • URL: /core/journals/development-and-psychopathology
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