Developing strategies for psychopharmacological studies in preschool children

Laurence L. Greenhill, Peter S. Jensen, Howard Abikoff, Jeffrey L. Blumer, Joseph DeVeaugh-Geiss, Celia Fisher, Kimberly Hoagwood, Christopher J. Kratochvil, Benjamin B. Lahey, Thomas Laughren, James Leckman, Theodore A. Petti, Kayla Pope, David Shaffer, Benedetto Vitiello, Charles Zeanah

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Objective: To identify the obstacles and special challenges - ethical, practical, scientific, and regulatory - faced by investigators who attempt to conduct psychopharmacological studies in preschoolers. Method: In a workshop held at the 47th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, featuring interactive sessions designed to elicit discussion of the theory and feasibility of research in this young population, several key domains were identified: diagnosis and assessment, ethics, research design, special considerations for preschoolers, regulatory/industry issues, and education/training. Results: A Pediatric Psychopharmacology Initiative is needed to consolidate recommendations from this and other workshops and current federal, research, and regulatory committees. A scholarly review and a guide for institutional review boards and investigators should be prepared on issues related to preschoolers. Developmental specialists provide valuable expertise that can strengthen studies of pediatric psychopharmacology. "N of 1" case studies can provide valuable information to clinicians. Only preschoolers with severe symptoms that occur in several interpersonal contexts should be entered into trials. Indications for the study of symptom complexes (e.g., aggression) rather than specific diagnoses should be examined and considered for regulatory activities. Psychopharmacology practice parameters for preschoolers are needed. Conclusions: With preschoolers being increasingly treated with psychopharmacological agents, the need for investigations to address the safety and efficacy of these medications is becoming a central issue for researchers from many disciplines.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)406-414
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2003


  • Clinical trials
  • Diagnosis
  • Ethics
  • Preschool children

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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