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Socio-Cultural Explanations of Schizophrenia
One explanation for schizophrenia is the socio-cultural explanation, which include
family based explanations, and social explanations, e.g. problems in living
conditions and the political aspects of diagnosis. Factors such as differential
diagnosis of different social classes, downward drift, life stress.
One part of the socio-cultural explanation is the family explanation. It has been
noticed that the families of those with schizophrenia tend to be somewhat
emotionally fraught as well as being somewhat over-protective or over involved in
the life of the patient. This is known as high negative EE (expressed emotion).
Whether this is a causal factor or whether this is a natural result of living with a
family member with schizophrenia has yet to be resolved. Either way, therapies
aimed at reducing the emotional tension and over involvement with the patient do
seem to be very effective in reducing relapse rates.
Bateson, Lidz and Laing have conducted evidence relating to the family
explanation of schizophrenia. During the 1950s and 60s a different attitude to the
biological emphasis, produced by the new drug treatments for schizophrenia,
emerged. This was the concept that there was something about the relationships
within the family that caused schizophrenia. Bateson's double-bind refers to
relationships with inherent contradictions. Children are given conflicting
messages from parents who appear to be expressing care yet at the same time are
critical. A parent may accuse a child of never showing any love and then push the
child away when s/he goes for a hug. Body language often contradicts speech
content. This causes confusion in the child, which leads to self-doubt and social
withdrawal. Lidz suggests that sometimes one parent behaves in a bizarre ay and
the other parent ignores their inappropriate behavior or even colludes with it e.g.
sexual abuse. A good example of this is the Genain family. Another pathological
family style is when the parents constantly argue and put each other down in
front of the children. The children do not know where they stand or how they
should behave. In the Genain family the behavior of the father was very aberrant
whilst the mother ignored what was happening. Laing built on the ideas of
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Humanistic Psychology and was influenced by Carl Rogers in particular. He
believed the patient had become a scapegoat for all the family's tensions and
inadequacies and the development of schizophrenia was a reaction to an
impossible situation where the individual feels unable to be himself/herself. The
therapy was to remove the patient from the family and place him/her in a
therapeutic community.…read more
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experienced at least one major life event in the preceding 3 weeks. Only 12% had
experienced a stressful life event in the preceding 9 weeks. A healthy control
group did not experience very many stressful life events in the same time period.
This suggests that stressful life events can trigger an episode of schizophrenia.
However the data was collected retrospectively and may not be entirely accurate
or may be due to `being wise after the event'.…read more
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afro-Caribbean attitudes and speech or it could be that those of lower class and
those who are discriminated against because of their ethnicity are more stressed.
It can also be stressful to live in conditions where the values of home and the
wider society, conflict. Downward drift is another possible factor causing
schizophrenia, where because of schizophrenic illness and individual job loss or
education, someone may gradually drift down the social scale.…read more