Psychological explanations of schizophrenia

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  • Created by: pooja
  • Created on: 05-01-13 14:57

Family Relationships

In the 1940's to the 1960's many psychological theories on schizophrenia were centred on dysfunctional family interactions and relationships being a causal factor. Fromm-Reichman suggested that family might be the origin of the illness; there were such things as 'schizophrenogenic mothers' who generate schizophrenia children. It was argued that these mothers were cold, rejecting, domineering and guilt-producing. 

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Double bind Theory

The idea suggests that there are abnormal and inadequate patterns of "communications" within the families of those with schizophrenia. "Bateson" suggested that the family communicates in such a way that is "destructively ambigious". 

The children who frequently recieve "conflicting messages" from their parents are more likely to develop schizophrenia. It is argued that the child's ability to respond to the other is "incapacitated" by such contradicitions because one message "invalidates" the other. 

Prolonged exposure to these interactions prevenets the development of an "internally coherent structure of reality" this then manifests itself as schizophrenia in the long-run. 

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Mischler and Waxler

Discovered that mothers interacting with schzophrenic daughters communicated in an aloof and unresponsive way. However, they behaved in a much more normal way with their non-schizophrenic children. This supports the double bind theory's principle that inadequate patterns of communication could perhaps lead to schizophrenia. 

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Cause or effect?

It could be argued that that this communication problem might be the effect of the illness, not its cause. This therefore highlights a major flaw of this theory since the schizophrenia must have been identified before the family could have been studied. 

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Berger 1965

Found that schizophrenis reported a higher recall of double bind statements by their mothers than non schizophrenics, giving the double bind theory validity that those who recieve conflicting messages from their parents are more likely to develop schizophrenia. 

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Schizophrenia may affect the accuracy of recall, so studies relying on the memory of a schizophrenic's childhood or of their family may be unreliable therefore limiting the validity of such research too. 

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Found no difference in patterns of parental communication between families of schizophrenic children and families of non-schizophrenia children. Thus there is little evidence to provide strong support for the double bind theory. 

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Expressed Emotion

What seems to be important in terms of communication is the extent to which a family engages in a high degree of expressed emotion. 

Linszen et al found patients returning to a family with high expressed emotion was four times more likely to relapse than a patient who returns to a family in low expressed emotion

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Cognitive Explanation

Cognitive psycholgists suggest that disturbed thinking processes are the cause rather than the consequence of schizophrenia.

Firth 1992 explained the positve symptoms of schizophrenia by malfunctions in the metarepresentation. This is the ability to reflect on our behaviour, allows self-awareness of our intentions and goals and the ability to interpret the actions of others. These malfunctions could lead to the inability of an individual to recognise ones own thoughts as being carried out by 'me' rather than someone else. 

Firth further explained the negative symptoms of schizophrenia such as alogia and avolition as the inability to supress our automatic responses to stimuli while we peform actions that reflect our wishses and intentions this ability is known as central control which he believe schizophrenics didn't have. 

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Bentall et al 1991

He presented a control group and a schizophrenic group with a list of words and asked them to make up some words to go with that list. A week later, the schizophrenic group could not distinguish which words they had been given and which they had made up.

Participants with normal metarepresentation would have been able to spot the words they made up themselves thus supporting a fault with the metarepresentation of schizophrenics. 

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However, it could be argued that perhaps it is the memory of schizophrenics that is impaired. This indicates validity to alternative theories such as the failure to activate the schema  and so thoughts are not recognised from memory and so are attributed to an external source. 

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Participants on anti-psychotic medication may see a reduction in their cognitive abilities due to the numbing effects of the medication this therefore makes research into this area inconclusive due to the lack on internal validity in such experiments. 

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Life Events

Life events such as the death of a relative or a loss of job have been associated with a higher risk of schizophrenic episodes. 

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Brown and Birely

It was found that prior to a schizophrenic episode, patients who had previously experienced a schizophrenia reported twice as many stressful life events in the 3 weeks prior to the relapse compared to a control group. 

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Hirsch et al

Followed 71 schizophrenics over a 49 week period and found stressful live events cumilated and made a significant contribution to the 12 months proceeding relapse than having more concentrated effect in the period just prior to the schizophrenic episode. 

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