John N. Constantino, MD, the Blanche F. Ittelson Professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, has received the 2014 Irving Phillips Award for Prevention from the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.
Each year, the award is given to a child and adolescent psychiatrist and AACAP member who has made significant contributions to the prevention of mental illness in children and adolescents. Constantino, who also directs the William Greenleaf Eliot Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, received the award at the academy’s 61st annual meeting in San Diego.
Constantino’s work has focused on understanding genetic and environmental influences on human social development and on public health approaches to the prevention of social disability.
Early in his career, his team at Washington University developed methods for determining the prevalence, cause and population structure of inherited deficits in reciprocal social behavior, and those methods are now in use around the world. Impairments in reciprocal social behavior, such as problems making eye contact, inappropriate facial expressions and difficulty interacting with other people, are hallmarks of several disorders.
His findings in subsequent studies of the influences on early anti-social behavior helped inform the design of the SYNCHRONY Project, which addresses unmet mental health needs of young children and their birth parents in the child welfare system. The program is a collaboration with the family court system and is designed to prevent child maltreatment after an initial episode of substantiated child abuse or neglect. Other targeted efforts have included his work with colleagues in delivering group-based parenting education to young, impoverished families, most recently in two large Early Head Start programs.
Constantino also is a co-director of the Washington University Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center. He is an expert on genetic and environmental factors that influence early social development, and he works with young children and their parents to offset the earliest signs of autism and other difficulties in social development in an effort to prevent long-standing behavioral disorders later in life.