Development and Psychopathology

Research Article

Ten good reasons to consider biological processes in prevention and intervention research

Theodore P. Beauchainea1 c1, Emily Neuhausa1, Sharon L. Brennera1 and Lisa Gatzke-Koppa1

a1 University of Washington


Most contemporary accounts of psychopathology acknowledge the importance of both biological and environmental influences on behavior. In developmental psychopathology, multiple etiological mechanisms for psychiatric disturbance are well recognized, including those operating at genetic, neurobiological, and environmental levels of analysis. However, neuroscientific principles are rarely considered in current approaches to prevention or intervention. In this article, we explain why a deeper understanding of the genetic and neural substrates of behavior is essential for the next generation of preventive interventions, and we outline 10 specific reasons why considering biological processes can improve treatment efficacy. Among these, we discuss (a) the role of biomarkers and endophenotypes in identifying those most in need of prevention; (b) implications for treatment of genetic and neural mechanisms of homotypic comorbidity, heterotypic comorbidity, and heterotypic continuity; (c) ways in which biological vulnerabilities moderate the effects of environmental experience; (d) situations in which Biology × Environment interactions account for more variance in key outcomes than main effects; and (e) sensitivity of neural systems, via epigenesis, programming, and neural plasticity, to environmental moderation across the life span. For each of the 10 reasons outlined we present an example from current literature and discuss critical implications for prevention.


c1 Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Theodore P. Beauchaine, University of Washington, Box 351525, Seattle, WA 98195-1525; E-mail:


Work on this article was supported by Grant MH63699 from the National Institute of Mental Health to Theodore P. Beauchaine. We thank Sheila Crowell, Penny Marsh, Hilary Mead, and Katherine Shannon for their helpful contributions.