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The Society for Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics was formed in 1982 (initially called the Society for Behavioral Pediatrics), by the eleven directors of training grants funded by the W.T. Grant Foundation for the purpose of training pediatric residents in this field. As part of the Grant Foundation funding, these eleven training directors met yearly between 1977 and 1982, with the goal of exchanging ideas and strategies to improve their training mission. At the time of the planned ending of Foundation funding, these training directors and colleagues founded the Society, in part, to address their wish to continue this exchange of ideas. An additional goal was to encourage research in the field through an annual meeting that would provide a forum for the presentation of research papers. These annual meetings have continued to grow in academic stature and attendance - in 2014, over 400 professionals attended the SDBP annual meeting. In addition, in 1985 the Society negotiated sponsorship of the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, started in 1980 and published by Williams & Wilkins, which continues to this date as the premiere journal in the field. From the beginning, the founders of the Society recognized the importance of embracing the multiple disciplines that impact the field of developmental-behavioral pediatrics. The Society's membership and its leaders reflect this priority.

The Society has been responsible for many new programs that have helped to provide the structure and status to insure the future of developmental and behavioral pediatrics. Just two of many examples are mentioned here: The Maternal and Child Health Bureau has provided funding since 1986 for 3-year research/academic fellowship programs in the field (with 10 programs funded for five-year periods in 2008) and the Society has developed curriculum to train fellows in Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics. Fellows, with their three years of subspecialty training including research training, form the future academic leadership of this field. And, in 1999, after much input from the Society, the field of Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics was approved as a subspecialty by the American Board of Medical Subspecialties; the first Sub board of DBP within the American Board of Pediatrics was established to collaborate with the Residency Review Committee to develop guidelines for subspecialty fellowship training and to develop an examination for certification of subspecialists in Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics. In October 2002, the first applications for accreditation of Fellowship Programs in DBP were accepted by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, and as of 2008 over three dozen fellowship programs have achieved accreditation. The fellowships are comprised of experiences in patient care to lead to the development of clinical proficiency, involvement in community or community-based activities, and development of skills in teaching, program development, research, and child advocacy. The first board certification examination in DBP was administered in November 2002, with the first certified subspecialists in the field in March 2003.

Beginning just over 25 years ago as a vehicle to allow 11 program directors to continue to meet to exchange ideas about an emerging field, SDBP has matured quickly to become an international professional organization and subspecialty society member of the International Pediatric Association that attracts hundreds of professionals of multiple disciplines to its annual meetings and publishes the premier professional journal in the field. The Society helped to launch board certification of developmental-behavioral pediatricians, ACGME-accreditation of DBP fellowship programs, and recognition of the field as a vital component of pediatric and other child health care professional training, service, and research.