Editorial and Commentaries: ‘The Rutter Effect’ – a celebration of Professor Sir Michael Rutter’s contributions to child psychology and psychiatry

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Editorial: ‘The Rutter Effect’ – a celebration of Professor Sir Michael Rutter’s contributions to child psychology and psychiatry

Edmund J. S. Sonuga-Barke, Pasco Fearon

This Virtual Issue celebrates Professor Sir Michael Rutter’s extraordinary contribution to child and adolescent psychology and psychiatry represented specifically by his writings published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.

It is published as part of the JCPP’s 60th anniversary celebrations. Rutter has been, and remains, a towering influence in child and adolescent psychiatry – recognized as a, if not the, driving force in its transformation from what even in the 1960s and early 1970s remained a rather speculative and subjective endeavor into a fully fledged science.

His influence has transcended disciplinary boundaries to have a profound effect on epidemiology, genetics, developmental psychology, social work, and social policy. The counter factual is unthinkable – if Rutter had not existed – scientific child psychiatry – at least as we know it now – would not have existed – his influence has been that profound. Rutter’s is a distinctive and rare vision – a theoretically sophisticated and clinically committed adherence to the logic of the scientific method – driven by the conviction that only reason, grounded in objective evidence, has the power to separate cultural myth about the nature and causes of mental disorder from clinical reality and drive forward innovation in the care of children with mental health problems. His intellectual clarity and focus, and tenacious questioning mind is something colleagues from all backgrounds have recognized and applauded. At the heart of his distinctive form of creativity is his unparalleled ability to first dissect and then synthesize complex ideas and to express these with great precision in a way that makes them accessible to scientists and clinicians. Motivated by a rigorous and tireless pursuit of the truth of the matter, that abjures the easy payoff or the low hanging fruit represented by a more simplistic empiricism. His form of rigorous conceptual analysis must remain central to our field, especially in this age of enthusiasm for blind big data analytics.

In total, Rutter has authored 120 JCPP papers and counting – the first being published in 1965. Each of the 11 papers in the Virtual Issue has been selected by one of our editor colleagues and is accompanied by their reflection on what that work has meant to them and to the science of child psychology and psychiatry.

We hope you enjoy the full editorial of this Virtual Issue, commentaries, and papers are free on the Wiley Online Library until 31 July.


Edmund Sonuga Barke
Professor Edmund Sonuga-Barke










Editor-in-Chief, JCPP
Edmund Sonuga-Barke is currently Professor of Developmental Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience working in the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the Institute of Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience, King’s College London. He also holds Visiting Chairs at Ghent UniversityAarhus University and the University of Sussex. He is Editor in Chief of the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.

His work integrates Developmental Psychopathology and Neuroscience perspectives to employing basic developmental science approaches to study the pathogenesis of neuro-developmental and mental health conditions; their underlying genetic and environmental risks, mediating brain mechanisms and developmental outcomes. He has a particular interest in ADHD and related disorders. In 2016, Prof Sonuga-Barke was elected a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences.

Edmund is delivering an ACAMH ADHD Masterclass in September 2019.

Prof Pasco Fearon
Prof Pasco Fearon

Editor-in-Chief, JCPP
Pasco is Professor of Developmental Psychopathology, Joint-Director, UCL Clinical Psychology Doctoral Programme, Research Department of Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology, University College London.


Professor Rutter really taught me how to think about child psychiatry and development. I started with the isle of white study and then the book he wrote with Henri Geller on conduct problems. My favorite was the Resilience In the Face of Adversity and also institution reared children. My wife and I adopted 2 children from Russia from different places and with different heritages when they were 4 . One was in a hospital for 3 years only at home in her first year. The other only in an institution for 5 months when 3. One a boy with language delays the other with great language but what Rutter in one of his papers referred to as never attached vs reactive attachment. My wife actually took her to Dr. Frederick who got Professor Rutter interested in a Romanian institutionalized children.
I am a US child psychiatrist and basically joined the ACAMH in the 1990s because of interest in Dr. Rutter’s work . I was on the editorial board of CAMzH for a while and with Professor Rutter’s support tried a question and answer part to the journal . I have since written for the Bridge including on CBT vs EMDR for PTSD which was partly inspired by Professor Rutter’s work. These days I spend 6 months a year in Ireland and 6 months in North Carolina teaching . To coaction in Bantry and to PA students via Skype in the US.
The current ACAMH podcasts and open forums were ideas I advocated for a decade or more ago under the last ACAMH administration.
All in all Professor Rutter has made a huge difference in my-professional life even though I only got to talk to him once for 3 minutes outside a Duke lecture he was giving.
Kim Masters

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