Professors Adam Guastella, Mark Dadds and David Hawes

Q&A with our Child Development and Behaviour team

Find out more about this recently formed team

The Child Development and Behaviour team brings together internationally regarded clinical researchers in child development to reduce the impact of social problems, autism, disruptive behaviour, emotional problems and impulsivity/hyperactivity.

We spoke to one of the team leaders, Professor Adam Guastella, about this exciting new Brain and Mind Centre development. 

What do you want the Child Development and Behaviour team to offer children and their families?

Our team offers diagnosis, assessment and intervention for children aged two to 12 who have mental health and developmental difficulties. Specifically, we focus on behaviour management and family intervention. As well as clinical trials of new therapeutics targeting social development in neurodevelopmental conditions. 

Our primary approach is to use a transdiagnostic model to understand neurobiological and behavioural systems that contribute to child mental health and developmental difficulties. As well as use novel interventions, family-based therapies and online treatment approaches to help families in need.  We have developed world first treatments for autism and conduct problems using personalised neurobiological approaches. 

Why is this field of work important to you? Why do you do what you do?

As a team we strive to make a difference to the lives of children and families by improving the evidence base of safe and effective treatments. We often see some of the most difficult and complex cases, where families haven’t had a lot of success with typical treatments. Our team provides cutting edge treatments that are informed by neuroscience, to ensure effective treatments for families.

Can you tell us about your Westmead connection?

The Children’s Hospital at Westmead is a major treatment and assessment site for children with developmental difficulties in New South Wales. By partnering with the Hospital, we will be able to reach thousands of NSW families with our cutting edge research. 

Our aim is to give every child and family that enters the Children’s Hospital at Westmead’s network the opportunity to participate in research and receive the best treatments that suit their needs. We also want to train clinical staff in best practice treatments. 

We will first focus on the role of the immune system in developmental disorders and how we might use markers of immune system activation to develop new treatments and diagnostic strategies.  

How is the Child Development and Behaviour team unique in the way it approaches childhood illness of this kind? 
We are one of the few research groups that can truly ask questions about child mental health development from a broad neurobiological framework. 

We look at how different neurobiological systems can influence childhood development to improve outcomes, or to create vulnerabilities. With this knowledge, we can then conduct cutting edge research that targets these systems to improve outcomes for some of the most difficult to treat problems.  

What are you most excited about for this team?

Improving the lives of children and their families through the development of new treatments.  

Find out more about the Child Development and Behaviour team's research.