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Early Childhood Intervention in Portugal: An Overview Based on the Developmental Systems Model

Pinto, Ana Isabel PhD; Grande, Catarina PhD; Aguiar, Cecília PhD; de Almeida, Isabel Chaves PhD; Felgueiras, Isabel BPsy; Pimentel, Júlia Serpa PhD; Serrano, Ana Maria PhD; Carvalho, Leonor MPsy; Brandão, Maria Teresa PhD; Boavida, Tânia MPsy; Santos, Paula PhD; Lopes-dos-Santos, Pedro PhD

doi: 10.1097/IYC.0b013e3182673e2b
Original Study

Research studies on early childhood intervention (ECI) in Portugal are diffuse regarding both program components and the geographical area under scrutiny. Since the 1990s, a growing body of knowledge and evidence in ECI is being gathered, based on postgraduate teaching, in-service training, and research. This article draws on the systems theory perspective outlined in the Developmental Systems Approach to Early Intervention (M. J. Guralnick, 2001, 2005a, 2011) to (a) depict paradigmatic shifts and scientific evidence, as well as social and political factors, setting the framework for the development of ECI policies and services in Portugal; (b) describe recent Portuguese legislation that established a national ECI system, and deductively analyze its content regarding the structural components of Guralnick's Model; (c) examine the current status of ECI services according to the core principles and components of the Developmental Systems Model. Inspired by M. J. Guralnick's suggestion (2000), the discussion addresses problems at different levels of the system, proposing an agenda for change in ECI in Portugal, underlining the need for the co-construction of a new culture, based on scientific evidence and on in-depth dialogues between researchers, practitioners, and communities.

Department of Psychology, University of Porto (Drs Pinto, Grande and Lopes-dos-Santos); ISCTE, University Institute of Lisbon (Dr Aguiar); Escola de Educação do Instituto Superior de Educação e Ciência at Lisbon (Dr Almeida and Ms Felgueiras); UIPCDE, ISPA-IU at Lisbon (Dr Pimentel and Ms Boavida); Institute of Education, University of Minho (Dr Serrano); ANIP (National Early Intervention Association) (Ms Carvalho); Department of Education, Social Sciences and Humanities, UTL-FMH-CIPER at Lisbon (Dr Brandão); Department of Education, University of Aveiro (Dr Santos).

Correspondence: Ana Isabel Pinto, PhD, Department of Psychology, University of Porto, Porto, Portugal (

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

©2012Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.