Psychological Explanations of Schizophrenia

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Socio-Cultural Factors: Life Events

This approach states that schizophrenia is caused by reinforcement of observation which is learned, and explains why schizophrenia runs in the family. High risk factors for schizophrenic episodes are traumatic and stressful life events. These can be things such as the death of a relative or going through divorce. This is outlined within research. Brown and Birley (1968) found that prior to a schizophrenic episode, patients who had experienced schizophrenia reported twice as many stressful life events compared to the other (healthy) group. 

  • S - Not all research supports life events. 
  • E - Van Os et al (1994) reported no link between life events and the onset of schizophrenia. 
  • E - This goes against the theory that life events effect whether somebody has schizophrenic symptoms or not.
  • L - This weakens the validity of the claim. 
  • S - There are methodological issues with the research within this claim. 
  • E - Most research supporting life events is correlational. 
  • E - This means that it is not clear if life events (such as divorce or losing a job) are the cause of the effect of schizophrenia. 
  • L - This also weakens the validity of the theory as there isn't a clear relationship. 

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Socio-Cultural Factors: Family Relationships

Double Bind Theory: Bateson et al (1956) suggested that children who frequently recieve contradictory messages from their parents are more likely to develop schizophrenia. This is due to the confusing and conflicting actions/speech directed towards them. This prevents them developing proper social skills and responses as they are confused as to which message is correct, and in turn creates the onset of schizophrenia. 

  • S - Family relationships are supported by research. 
  • E - Tienari et al (1994) studied adopted children who had schizophrenic biological parents and found that they were more likely to become ill themselves than those who did not. However it was found that genetic vulnerability was not enough as it was found that the illness was found in adopted children who's families were seen as 'disturbed.'
  • E - This shows that schizophrenia may manifest itself in correct environmental situations as well as just being a genetic link. 
  • L  - This supports double bind theory as environmental family life factors had an impact. 
  • S - Double bind theory may be seen as ethically incorrect.
  • E - Putting forward this theory parents are blamed for their children developing schizophrenia. 
  • E - This is socially sensitive as it's passing the blame of an illness onto a parent.
  • L - This means that it may be ethically wrong to make this assumption. 
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Socio-Cultural Factors: Family Relationships EE

Expressed Emotion: Another variable within family relationships is having a negative mood and atmosphere for majority of the time. This is known as expressed emotion (EE). It involves things such as: criticism, hostility and emotional-over involvement. It mainly effects relapse rates for patients; those going back to families with high EE are four times as likely to relapse than those who don't. 

  • S - The relationship between EE and schizophrenia is unclear.
  • E - It's unclear as to whether EE cause schizophrenia or schizophrenia causes EE.
  • E - This is because the illness may create a hostile atmosphere at home within itself rather than the hostile atmosphere causing schizophrenia. 
  • L - This poses methodological issues as cause and effect is a problem. 
  • S - This theory has positive applications. 
  • E - Hogarty et al (1991) found that therapy as a result of EE can significantly reduce relapse rate. 
  • E - This means that high EE families are taught to deal with the situation in a more positive light and how to reduce the hostile atmosphere.
  • L - This can be applied to high EE families to reduce relapse  rates whether schizophrenia is caused by EE or if it's the other way around; it still helps the situation. 
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Socio-Cultural Factors: Labeling Theory

Scheff (1999) states that social groups construct rules for members of their group to follow. The symptoms of schizophrenia (hallucinations and delusions etc) are seen as deviant from these rules; in other words they're not normal. If someone displays these symptoms there are considered deviant and are labelled as schizophrenic. Self fulfilling prophecies may be attributed to this once the label is given (Comer, 2003).

  • S - Labeling theory is supported with evidence. 
  • E - Scheff (1974) evaluated 18 studies related to labeling theory. He judged 13 to be consistent and 5 to be inconsistent. 
  • E - As the vast majority of the studies fit in with labelling theory this means it is supporting evidence. 
  • L - This supports labeling theory.  
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