Walker, H. M., Zeller, R. W., Close, D. W., Webber, J., & Gresham, F. (1999). The present unwrapped: Change and challenge in the field of behavioral disorders [invited article]. Behavioral Disorders , 24 (4), 293-304.


This article examines the present state of affairs in the field of behavior disorders. The case is made that the field's target population has changed dramatically, for the worse, over the past twenty five years due primarily to the transformation of our society in an unfortunate manner. Because of long term exposure to such risk factors as poverty, drug and alcohol use by caregivers, child neglect, social fragmentation, weak parenting practices, and violent images in the media, we have produced a generation of children and youth who are far more at risk for unhealthy lives than prior generations. Our society's responses to the damaging effects of these developments (e.g., school failure and dropout, delinquency, violent acts) has been characterized primarily by the use of punishing sanctions designed to teach vulnerable children and youth lessons of avoidance rather than to prevent these conditions or to habilitate the victims of them. Strategies are suggested for professionals in the field of behavior disorders to consider in advocating for new, proactive approaches in addressing these societal problems.