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Discuss psychological explanations for schizophrenia. (8+16 marks)
The first psychological theory for schizophrenia is double bind. Double binds are contradictory
statement(s) given by a respected authority figure, often a mother to their child; for example "I am
only hitting you because I love you" or "I'll punish you if you're not nice to your sister, but you should
only be nice to her out of your own free will". Double bind statements are confusing to the child
because they create a `no win situation' in that the child will not be praised either way. These
statements can happen in any relationship; they are thought to cause schizophrenia is they happen
frequently and if the child is too young to understand the paradox. Sz is thought to develop because
a child becomes confused and this disturbs their internal construction of reality and they seek relief
by creating an inner world of delusions.
Much of the research for double bind is of a similar kind. For example, observing family interactions,
or more commonly, giving retrospective questionnaires to family members that assess the frequency
of double bind statements.
The main issue with the research is that it is retrospective. You can't be certain that people will
remember their childhood accurately especially if it involved many double bind comments as
memories may have been repressed. The frequency of comments can also easily be taken out of
proportion, especially when you are young, meaning participants may be exaggerating on how many
double bind statements they received. The memories cannot be checked by the researchers so they
cannot be assessed meaning the results lack validity. The participants may also suffer from social
desirability bias as they don't want their parents to be seen in a bad light so they could lie about the
amount of double bind statements they were given.
The family observations are also retrospective as they occur after the disorder has been diagnosed.
This is an issue as family life can be significantly altered after a family member is diagnosed. This could
mean that double bind statements were previously vacant but with the stress and pressure of caring
for a schizophrenic person that have become present in the relationships.
Another major concern is that the symptoms of Sz may affect the results. The memories they recall
may not actually be true memories, instead they could be delusions making them unreliable
There is also very little information on the individual differences that may have been present
between groups in studies. There has been very little research into variations of double bind
occurring in single parent families compared to two parent families, however, it could be that this has
a major impact on whether a child develops Sz.
The majority of the research on double bind focuses on the relationship between the mother and
child. It is an alpha biased theory as it believes that mothers have to most effect on the development
of schizophrenia. However, there is a lack of scientific proof and it struggles to explain why
schizophrenia doesn't develop in all children within a family even though they experience the same
situations/conditions. It is also very socially sensitive and misogynistic to label mothers are the cause
The second psychological explanation is expressed emotion (EE). This theory doesn't look at the
cause of Sz, instead it focuses on the course and whether families can make the illness worse or
cause patients to relapse. EE is considered to be an adverse family environment which includes the
quality of interaction pattern and the nature of family relationships. The influence of EE is believed to
be one of the most robust ways of predicting relapse in Sz. A high-EE family is considered as hostile,
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EE family is linked with warmth and positive regard. It is families
with high-EE that are related with higher relapse rates.
It is usually determined whether a family is high or low EE through a taped interview known as the
Camberwell Family Interview. Family members will answer questions and their answers and
non-verbal cues will be assessed to make an evaluation. The alternative is to get family members to
speak for five minutes about the patient and then analyse the content.…read more