A2 AQA PSYCHOLOGY A - psychological explanations for schizophrenia

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Studies suggest that very stressful or life-changing events may trigger schizophrenia. Being
homeless, living in poverty, having no job, losing someone close to you, or being physically,
emotionally, sexually or racially abused or harassed may be factors.
According to one study, over half the people who heard negative voices said that sexual or
physical abuse was a cause of their problem. Nearly a quarter of them thought that guilt at
their own actions had triggered the negative voices.
Hirsch et al (1996) and Brown and Birley (1968).
Van O's et al (1994) reported no link between life events & the onset of schizophrenia.
Patients were not more likely to have had a major stressful life event in the 3 months
preceding the onset of their illness. Those patients who had experienced a major life event
went on to have a lower likelihood of relapse.
Evidence does suggest a link between life events and the onset of schizophrenia is only
correlational. It could be that the beginnings of their disorder were the cause of the major
life events. Furthermore, life events after the onset of the disorder (e.g. losing job, divorce)
may be a consequence rather than a cause of mental illness.
Bateson et al. (1956) suggested the double bind theory, which suggests that children
who frequently receive contradictory messages from their parents are more likely to
develop schizophrenia.
If a mother tells her son that she loves him, yet at the same time turns her head away in
disgust, the other child receives conflicting messages about their relationship on
different communication levels: affection on the verbal level, animosity on the
non-verbal. Bateson et al. argued that the child's ability to respond to the mother is
incapacitated by such contradictions because one message effectively invalidates the
Prolonged exposure to such interactions prevents the development of an internally
coherent construction of reality; in the long run, this manifests itself as typically
schizophrenic symptoms such as delusions and hallucinations, incoherent thinking and
speaking, and in some cases paranoia.

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There is some evidence to support this particular account of how family relationships
may lead to schizophrenia.
BERGER (1965) found that schizophrenics reported a higher recall of double bind
statements by their mothers than non-schizophrenics. However, It may not be reliable as
patients recall may be affected by their schizophrenia
LIEM (1974) measured patterns of communication in families with a schizophrenic child
and found no difference when compared to `normal' families.…read more

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Scheff (1999) promoted the labelling theory of schizophrenia.
Theory states social groups create the concept of psychiatric deviance by constructing
rules for group members to follow.
Thus the symptoms of schizophrenia are seen as deviating (going against) from the rules
that we attribute to `normal' experience or behaviour.
Therefore those who display unusual behaviour are considered deviant and the label
schizophrenic may be applied which becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that promotes the
development of other symptoms of schizophrenia. (Comer 2003).…read more

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Cognitive approaches examine how people think, how they process information.
Researchers have focused on two factors which appear to be related to some of the
experiences and behaviours of people diagnosed with schizophrenia.
First, cognitive deficits which are impairments in thought processes such as perception,
memory and attention.
Second, cognitive biases are present when people notice, pay attention to, or remember
certain types of information better than other.…read more

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Freud (1924)
Schizophrenia is the result of: Regression to a pre-ego stage.
Attempts to re-establish ego control.
Ego = driven by the reality principle which works to satisfy the ID in realistic ways. Makes the
child accommodate to the demands of the environment.
If a schizophrenic's world is harsh, e.g. cold and uncaring parents, a child may regress back to
a developmental stage before the ego was properly formed, before the child had developed
realistic awareness of the external world.…read more


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