Call for Papers: Special Issue on The Rise of Developmental Science

Guest Editors
Dominique P Béhague, Vanderbilt University & King’s College London
Samuel Lézé, École Normale Supérieure de Lyon

Social Science & Medicine is soliciting papers for a Special Interdisciplinary Issue on the unique challenges arising in the creation of child/adolescent developmental expertise throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. Since the Enlightenment, the child’s developmental journey to adulthood has served as a prism for philosophical and scientific formulations of what it means to be healthy, normal, and human. Relative to other subfields in psychiatry and psychology, however, the focus on child/adolescent development and mental illness is both new and increasingly contested. As clinicians begin to work with an ever younger patient-population, critics from both outside and within relevant fields have begun sounding warning bells, since much of the evidence about early intervention, “normal/abnormal” development and treatment is uncertain and prone to undue pathologisation. Thus, experts are also calling for increased interdisciplinarity to better account for the unpredictability of development and the socio-cultural, economic, and biological heterogeneity in which normal/abnormal development and mental illness unfold.

Taking child/adolescent developmental expertise as an object of socio-cultural analysis, this special issue aims to explore how normative and marginal trends in this scientific subfield evolve in diverse socio-cultural and geopolitical contexts. The call builds on an existing set of manuscripts drawn from a workshop co-sponsored by Brunel University and the Royal Anthropological Institute entitled “The Rise of Child Science and Psy-expertise” (London, May 29-30, 2012). We welcome submissions that consider the institutionalized worlds of science, medicine and education alongside the everyday lives of children and youth from historical and/or contemporary perspectives. Papers should be both empirically-based and theoretically informed. As we aim to influence core practices in science, medicine and policy, authors are also invited, though not required, to consider how the critical study of expert knowledge – and the diversity that exists therein — can inform constructive debate on how best to produce and apply this knowledge.

Paper topics may include:

  • Comparative analysis of distinct ethno-psychiatric/psychological traditions and of normative and marginal research trends in child/adolescent science and clinical practice, including their institutionalized and increasingly globalized applications
  • Intersection of child/adolescent science and policy-development; e.g. growing interest in prevention and early intervention; emerging work on adolescent brain plasticity and implications for public policy and juridical practice
  • Implications of diverse trends in developmental science and child psychiatry for pedagogy, including psychologization of learning and school life through specific diagnoses (ADHD) and broader concepts (well-being, self-esteem, mindfulness)
  • Social vulnerability, ethnicity, inequity and minority status in child development research and clinical practice; global humanitarianism and medicalization of traumatic experience in children and youth
  • Popular uses and interpretations of emerging models of child development by advocacy groups, with special attention to the recent turn towards “child-centric” research and constructs of child agency
  • Interaction between “child” and “adult” categories in science, e.g. the methodological and conceptual tensions that research on child/adolescent development injects into mainstream adult psychiatry/psychology
  • Biologization of the child/adolescent in biopsychiatry and neuroscience, e.g. the adolescent brain; mother-infant bonding; geneticization; pharmaceuticalization

Authors can submit their papers any time after October 1st and up until the18th February 2014. Online submission can be found at: <> . When asked to choose article type, please stipulate ‘Special Issue: Debates on Humanity/Child-development.’ In the ‘Enter Comments’ box, the title of the Special Issue, along with any further acknowledgements, should be inserted. All submissions should meet Social Science & Medicine author guidelines ( Please contact [email protected]edu and [email protected] for further questions.