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Psychological Explanations of Schizophrenia- Essay Plan
1. Life events- occurrence of stressful life events (death of a close relative or break up of a
relationship). Brown and Birley 1968- found that about 50% of people experience a stressful
life event in the 3 weeks prior to a schizophrenic episode, while only 12% reported 1 in 9
weeks prior to that. This suggests that life events trigger the relapse of schizophrenia as a
healthy control group had low and unchanging levels of stressful life events over the same
period. Hirsch looked at 71 schizophrenic patients over 48 weeks and concluded that it was
clear that life events made a significant cumulative contribution in the 12 months preceding
relapse. The reason for why sress factors trigger schizophrenia are still unknown, however
Falloon found that high levels of physiological arousal linked with neurotransmitter changes
are thought to be involved.
2. Critical Point 1: There is evidence against the role of stressful life events in leading to
schizophrenia. Van Os reported no link between life events and the onset of schizophrenia,
he found that patients weren't more likely to have had a major stressful life event in the 3
months preceding the onset of their illness. He also found that in a prospective part of the
study those patients who had experienced a major life event went on to have a lower
likelihood of relapse. Consequently, there is contradictory evidence about this explanation of
schizophrenia and so it is difficult to draw casual conclusions that can be related to real life
3. Critical Point 2: There is a problem drawing conclusions with this explanation. This is because
evidence that does imply a link between life events and the onset of schizophrenia is only
correlational, there is the possibility that the beginnings of the disorder (erratic behaviour)
were the cause of the major life events, and once again there is a question of whether life
events are a cause or consequence of the disorder. As a result of this, the view about life
events being a cause of schizophrenia is weakened due to the failure of being able to draw
meaningful conclusions from the research gathered.
4. Double bind theory- Bateson claims that children who frequently receive contradictory
messages from their parents are more likely to develop schizophrenia. One example of this
is when a mother tells her son she loves him but then turns her head away in disgust and so
the child receives 2 conflicting messages about their relationship on different communicative
levels, one of affection on verbal level and one of animosity on the non verbal level.
Therefore, the child's ability to respond to the mother is weakened by these contradictions
as one messages invalidates the other. These interactions prevent the development of an
internally coherent construction of reality which in the long term turns into schizophrenic
symptoms (flattened affect and withdrawal).
5. Critical Point 1: This theory has some evidence to support it for instance, Berger used a
retrospective method. He gave out a questionnaire containing 30 double bind statements
and asked the participants to rate them on a 4 point scale in terms of how frequently they
recalled their mothers using these type of statements. Berger found that the schizophrenics
consistently reported a higher incidence of these statements than one of the comparison
groups (college students). However he found that the schizophrenics' scores were not
significantly higher than the other comparison groups who also had psychiatric and medical
conditions. Therefore, this research provides some evidence for the double bind theory.
6. Critical Point 2: There is a flaw with retrospective studies. This is that interpretability of
findings is limited by the fact that recall may be unequally biased in the schizophrenic group.
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This is because of their disorganised thought processes, and so it is hard to establish why a
person became schizophrenic in the first place.
7. Critical Point 3: There is some research that does not support Bateson's double bind theory.
For example Liem measured patterns of parental communication in families with a
schizophrenic child and found no difference when compared to normal families. Therefore,
this statement disproves double bind theory and seems to suggest it is useless.