A developmental cascade is a metaphor that refers to the cumulative consequences of the many interactions and transactions occurring in developing systems. These interactions and transactions occur between and within microscopic (e.g., biological) and macroscopic (e.g., cultural) factors that constitute systems. Cascades have also been called snowball, chain reaction, or amplification effects, and each term captures the concept of cumulative consequences that is an essential element of cascades.

Cascade models may be particularly relevant for understanding the development and prevention of psychopathology, given that many forms of psychopathology have complex, multifactor etiologies that accumulate over time. Rather than focusing solely on effects of isolated risk and protective factors, preventive interventions can be conceptualized as interrupting negative or promoting positive developmental cascades that can occur across the ...

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