Although the historic roots of pediatric psychology can be traced to Lightner Witmer in the nineteenth century (Roberts & McNeal, 1995), formal definitions of the field were first offered in the 1960s. Beginning with Kagan's (1965) call for collaboration between pediatrics and psychology, contributions began to emerge in the literature arguing for the genesis of a new area of study. In 1967, Logan Wright published an article in American Psychologist outlining what he believed to be the necessary role and training for the pediatric psychologist. By 1968, the Society of Pediatric Psychology was born and became formally affiliated with the American Psychological Association, Division 12, Section on Clinical Child Psychology (Roberts & McNeal, 1995). Through the 1970s, clearer and more comprehensive definitions emerged. Walker (1979) defined pediatric psychology as a subspecialty of behavioral medicine that allows for a behavioral-developmental perspective on child problems in the pediatric medical context. Importantly, he noted that pediatric psychology differed from traditional clinical psychology in terms of conceptualization and both points of intervention and manner of intervention. Yet, perhaps the most contemporary and inclusive definition of pediatric psychology is found in the masthead statement of the Journal of Pediatric Psychology (Roberts, La Greca, & Harper, 1988).

Pediatric psychology is an interdisciplinary field addressing physical, cognitive, social, and emotional functioning and development as they relate to health and illness issues in children, adolescents, and families- it explores the interrelationship between psychological and physical well-being of children, adolescents, and families including: psychosocial and developmental factors contributing to the etiology, course, treatment, and outcome of pediatric conditions; assessment and treatment of behavioral and emotional concomitants of disease, illness, and developmental disorders; the role of psychology in healthcare settings; behavioral aspects of pediatric medicine; the promotion of health and health related behaviors; the prevention of illness and injury among children and youth; and issues related to the training of pediatric psychologists.

Thus, pediatric psychology has evolved beyond early definitions of the field that were narrow in scope and based almost exclusively on the role of pediatric psychologists in the medical setting. Although not embraced by all pediatric psychologists, more contemporary definitions of the field capture more accurately the broad range of responsibilities and health care contexts in which pediatric psychologists function (Roberts & McNeal, 1995).


Pediatric Psychologists are part of an integrated field of science and practice in which the principles of psychology are applied within the context of pediatric health. The field aims to promote the health and development of children, adolescents, and their families through use of evidence-based methods.

Areas of expertise within the field include, but are not limited to: psychosocial, developmental and contextual factors contributing to the etiology, course and outcome of pediatric medical conditions; assessment and treatment of behavioral and emotional concomitants of illness, injury, and developmental disorders; prevention of illness and injury; promotion of health and health-related behaviors; education, training and mentoring of psychologists and providers of medical care; improvement of health care delivery systems and advocacy for public policy that serves the needs of children, adolescents, and their families.

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