As president of the European Society for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, it is an honour for me, and a great pleasure, to invite you to our 12th International Congress, which will take place at the CNIT, Paris – La Défense, from September 28th to October 1st, 2003.
The theme of the congress,“Developmental Psychopathology: Transmission and Change” was chosen to emphasize the need for reflection on how psychic disturbances are transmitted, and the importance of the processes of change during development: changes evoked by psychopathological processes, changes in the modes of expression of disorders depending on the stages of development, and changes linked to social, familial and therapeutic transformations.
Progress in the fields of genetics, molecular biology, neuro-endocrino-immunology and brain imaging technology, is bringing us both new information and new questions – especially regarding the respective roles and functions of genetic and environmental factors. Meanwhile, changes affecting society, family, education and life styles are accompanied by changes in the way illness and suffering is expressed by children and adolescents.
Where is the boundary between normality and pathology? Where do we draw the line between behaviours which only require educational measures, and those which call for special care? Such limits are especially difficult to define because enduring harmful behaviours carry their own pathogenic effects, which reorganise the personality and confine the subject into repetitive patterns, which become increasingly difficult to control. Furthermore, in the search for early signs of disorders which develop fully during late adolescence or early adulthood, child psychiatrists are concerned with their possible link with behavioural disturbances and atypical manifestations of childhood, and the question of exactly when specific treatment is indicated.
Progress in recent decades may herald a new era in psychiatry. The study of child and adolescent development is of crucial importance, since it is at this period in human life, more than at any other, that various vulnerability factors interact with the attachment bonding modalities, which are essential in the organisation and development of personality.
The combination of social pressure, increased demand for achievement in young people, and greater visibility of behavioural disturbances, might explain why child psychiatrists are increasingly challenged by public authorities, the educational system, courts, and families. Child psychiatrists are not only requested to provide answers, when they have them, but are also asked to transmit their knowledge, in order to develop (along with those important social partners) responses that help them to deal with the difficulties of troubled children, thus avoiding developmental blocks and irretrievable pathological situations.
It is my wish that this congress will help us share our knowledge, hopes and difficulties, in a friendly and assiduous atmosphere, and an attractive Parisian setting.
Professor Philippe Jeammet
President of ESCAP