Objective: To describe the growth of developmental epidemiology in the past decade and to illustrate it with examples of recent studies.
Method: A review of publications on developmental epidemiology in the past 10 years and a discussion of some key examples.
Results: The authors describe how the interaction between developmental psychopathology and psychiatric epidemiology has produced developmental epidemiology, the study of patterns of distribution of psychiatric disorders in time as well as in space. They give two examples of the kinds of questions that developmental epidemiology can help to answer: (1) Is the prevalence of autism increasing? Does the use of vaccines explain the increase? (2) Is there an epidemic of child and adolescent depression? Finally, they describe two areas of science that are beginning to inform developmental epidemiology: molecular genetics and the use of biological measures of stress.
Conclusions: While child and adolescent psychiatric epidemiology continues, as described in the first of these reviews, to address questions of prevalence and burden, it has also expanded into new areas of research in the past decade. In the next decade, longitudinal epidemiological data sets with their rich descriptive data on psychopathology and environmental risk over time and the potential to add biological measures will provide valuable resources for research into gene-environment correlations and interactions.