Child psychiatric epidemiology has developed rapidly from descriptive, cross-sectional studies in the 1960s to the current large-scale prospective cohorts that unravel aetiological mechanisms. The objective of the study was to give an overview of epidemiological studies that have influenced child psychiatry. A chronological overview of selected major milestone studies was obtained to demonstrate the development of child psychiatric epidemiology, with a more in-depth discussion of findings and methodological issues exemplified in one cohort, the Generation R Study. Epidemiological studies have been successful in describing the frequency and course of child psychiatric problems. The high expectations that biological factors can be used to better explain, diagnose or predict child psychiatric problems have not been met. More ambitious large-scale child psychiatric cohort studies are needed, carefully applying genetics, neuroscience or other molecular research to better understand how the brain produces maladaptive behaviour. Progress will only be attained if the basic sciences are systematically integrated in cohorts with rigorous epidemiological designs rather than hurriedly inserted in child psychiatric studies.

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European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Psychology

Verhulst, F., & Tiemeier, H. (2015). Epidemiology of child psychopathology: major milestones. European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (Vol. 24, pp. 607–617). doi:10.1007/s00787-015-0681-9