Psychological explanations of schizophrenia

psychology unit 4 aqa a A2

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  • Created by: lauren
  • Created on: 14-06-12 11:35

Psychological theories

Psychodynamic explanation - Freud - regression to a pre-ego state - if parents are cold and uncaring, a person regresses to an earlier stage before the development of ego or realistic awareness of the world - attempts to re-establish ego control from an infantile state, failure of this can lead to symptoms of schizophrenia such as delusions and narcissism, the product of a weak and confused ego

little evidence to support psychodynamic view - studies have shown that parents of schizos do behave differently from other kinds of parent, particularly in the presence of their disturbed offspring - however its likely to be a consequence of their illness rather than the cause

if psychodynamic explanation is correct then the psychodynamic therapy should be effective in the treatment of schiz but Malmberg found that patients given psychodynamic therapy showed less recovery than those given antipsychotics - favouring the biological explanation

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Psychological theories

Cognitive explanation - acknowledges the role of biological factors in schiz but claims the further features emerge as people try to understand their condition - when schizos first hear voices and have other sensory symptoms they turn to others to validate these experiences - if others fail to confirm their validity the person believes the others are hiding the truth and so the schiz develops delusional beliefs

Meyer-Lindenberg - found a link between excess dopamine in the prefrontal cortex and working memory - working memory dysfunction is associated with the cognitive disorgansisation typically found in schizos - also found that treatment with antipsychotics significantly improved cognitive functioning

Yellowlees - have trialled a machine that can deliver 'virtual' auditory and visual hallucinations - intentions of this is to show schizos that their hallucinations are not real

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Socio-cultural factors

Life events - discrete stressrs such as the death of a close relative have been associated with a higher risk of developing schiz - Brown and Birley found that prior to a schizo episode patients reported twice as many stressful life events when compared to a healthy control group who reported low and unchanging level of stressful life events over the same period - relies on self report from schizo's - self report from a healthy control is not always 100% due to memory which makes in inaccurate, however when relying on schizo's it may be more unreliable due to their symptoms such as hearing voices altering their recall - prospective studies - Hirsch - found life events have a cumulative effect preceding relapse rather than a concentrated effect just before a schiz episode

Van Os - no link between life events and the onset of schiz - retrospective part of study patients were not more likely to have experienced a major life event in the 3 months prior to an episode of schiz - prespective part of study patients who had experienced major life event went on to have a lower incidence of relapse rather than an increased risk as predicted

research correlational - cant infer a causal relationship between stressful life events and schiz - could be that the early symptoms of the disorder were the cause of major life events - possible that the stressful life events might be the consequence rather than the cause of the disorder

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Socio-cultural factors

Family relationships - double-bind theory - Bateson - suggest that children who frequently recieve contradictory messages from their parents are more likely to develop schiz - prevents the development of an internally consistent construction of reality which can manifest itself into schiz symptoms such as withdrawal 

Expressed emotion (EE) - is a family style of communication that involves criticism and emotional over-involvement - high levels of EE are likely to influence relapse rates - negative emotional climate in these families leads to stress beyond the persons impaired ability to cope and so triggers a relapse into schiz

Tienari - adopted children who had schiz biological parents were more likely to develop schiz than children of normal biological parents - only when the adopted family was rated as disturbed, the illness only manifested itself under innapropriate environmental conditions - genetics alone were not enough

Berger - schizos reported a high recall of double-bind statements by their mothers than did non-schizs but accuracy of their recall may be affected by their illness - Liem - no difference between patterns of parental communication in families of schiz and non-schiz

High EE relatives are taught how to reduced levels of EE -Hogarty - such therpay can significantly reduce relapse rates among schizos

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Socio-cultural factors

Labelling theory - if a person displays unusual behaviours associated with schiz they are considered to be deviant by society - once this diagnostic label is applied it becomes a sel-fulfilling prophecy leading to further symptoms

evidence to support - Scheff evaluated 18 studies explicitly related to labelling theory - judged 13 to be consistent with the theory and 5 to be inconsistent - scheff concluded that labelling theory was supported by the available evidence


NOT REDUCTIONIST - addresses the role of biological factors as well as psychological




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