Infant Psychiatry: What is it about?


Tel Aviv University School of Medicine, Tel Aviv, Israel


The main aim of this presentation will be to show how Infant Psychiatry is actually a clinical application of the modern bio-psycho-social understanding of the human development. The notion of the “competent infant” will be defined, as the basis for understanding how early experiences, and more specifically attachment experiences, impact on the development of the brain during the first three years of life. The interplay between two majors axes of development, the attachment system and the exploratory system, will be described.  We will link the quality of the early attachment experiences and “good enough” parenting to the development of empathy in the child. We will formulate the essence of Infant psychiatry in terms of interventions that are targeted to improve/change early childhood experiences, and actually promote changes at the level of brain and mind development. The scope of Infant Psychiatry includes therefore the early detection of infants at risk, early intervention of symptomatic infants, and follow up studies. The transactional model of development will be presented as the basis for assessment, diagnosis, and intervention planning and the modalities of treatment for infants and their parents will be described.