Outline and evaluate psychological explanations of schizophrenia

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Maya Sterrie
Outline and evaluate the psychological explanation of schizophrenia
One psychological explanation of schizophrenia is the sociocultural explanation, focusing on social
and cultural factors, like the family and social environments. Another sociocultural factor is the
doublebind theory proposed by Bateson. This theory suggests that schizophrenia is viewed as a
learned response to conflicting messages (double bind) coming from an individual's parents during
childhood. For example, if a mother told her child she loved them but turned away in disgust
simultaneously; this would confuse the child as they are receiving 2 conflicting messages about
their relationship on different communicative levels (affection on a verbal level, as well as
animosity on a nonverbal level). Growing up in an environment whereby mixed messages are
imminent leaves the child developing disorganised thinking and communication (including forming
a false concept of reality), which in the long term can lead to more severe schizophrenic
symptoms (such as flattened affect). Following on from the double bind aspect of the family
model, EE, such as hostility, overconcern and criticism can make the maintenance of
schizophrenia more challenging, often resulting in relapse (especially when combined with mixed
Berger's 1965 study supports the double bind theory through his findings. He found that
schizophrenics reported a higher incidence of double bind/contradictory statements by their
mothers than nonschizophrenics. However, Berger also found that the schizophrenics' scores
were not significantly higher than the other comparison groups who had other psychiatric and
medical conditions. Therefore, this research evidence can be seen as providing adequate support
for the double bind theory, as Berger found that it was more common for schizophrenics to be
raised in an environment where mixed messages are imminent, than for nonschizophrenics.
However, Berger's study can only provide minimal support for the double bind theory, as no
distinct cause and effect relationship was established. Furthermore, this study lacked internal
validity as it was retrospective, implying that the reliability of what the participants could
remember may be biased or false, especially among schizophrenics (due to their unorganised
thought processes). As a result of this, the recall may have been unequally biased, meaning the
interpretability of the findings is very limited and the study as a whole doesn't provide a whole lot
of supporting evidence to this theory. In other words, research has proven it is difficult to find
conclusive, supportive evidence for this theory, potentially implying that the double bind theory
itself is flawed. Bateson also admitted that his 1956 paper `Toward a Theory of Schizophrenia'
never stated that the double bind theory was in fact the sole cause of the mental illness,
suggesting that the theory itself isn't useful as even Bateson himself couldn't provide
comprehensive support for it, in particular, not finding a cause.
However, the double bind theory has been found to have successful real life, practical
implications, in particular, in the fields of family therapy. Bateson himself was able to form initial
schools of family therapy practice, and was even attributed to contributing to the therapeutic field
"enormously" by fellow psychologist Gibney. This practical implication of the theory suggests that
it is extremely useful to family therapy, and therefore can be seen as a successful, sound theory.
Furthermore, Laing and Cooper found that this theory in fact supported a psychosocial model of
the etiology of schizophrenia, as well as the psychosocial model of its treatment. However,
negative real life implications were also exposed; such understandings of the theory aided the
antipsychiatry movement of the 1960's, as people were able to completely challenge the use of
drug therapy as a means of curing schizophrenia. As psychiatry is so strongly associated with

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Maya Sterrie
schizophrenia, the theory aiding in moving away from drug/biological treatments, could help lead
to the treatment of schizophrenia moving away from the use of drugs and more towards a
therapybased solution. However, in particular with schizophrenia, drugs such as antipsychotics
have been found to be an extremely effective form of treatment, not only as the drugs can treat
the symptoms themselves, but also because the drugs can allow the individual to be more open to
therapy and its benefits.…read more

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Maya Sterrie
This theory is further supported by Bentall et al (1991) who found that schizophrenics struggled to
identify words belong to a certain category, such as birds, that they had read earlier, created
themselves or had not seen before, supporting Frith's theory that people with schizophrenia have
metarepresentational problems.…read more


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