Psychological explanations for schizophrenia


Psychological explanations for schizophrenia

Family dysfunction

  • Psychologists have attempted to link schz to childhood and adult experiences of living in a dysfunctional family
  • The schizophrenogenic mother
    • Fromm-Reichmann proposed a pscyhodynamic explanation for schz based on the accounts she heard from her patients about their childhood
    • She noted that many of her patients spoke of a particular type of parent which she called the schizophrenogenic mother
    • The schizophrenogenic mother is cold, rejecting and controlling and tends to create a family environment full of tensions and  secrecy
    • This leads to distrust that later develops into paranoid delusions, and ultimately schz
  • Double-bind theory
    • Bateson agreed that family climate is important in the development of schz but emphasised the role of communication style within a family
    • The developing child regularly finds themselves in situations where they fear doing the wrong thing, but receive mixed messages about what that is, and feel unable to comment on the unfairness of this situation or seek clarification
    • When they get it wrong, the child is punished with the withdrawal of love
    • This causes them to understand the world as confusing and dangerous, reflected in symptoms like disorganised thinking and paranoid delusions
    • Bateson believed this was just a risk factor in development of schz
  •  Expressed emotion(EE)
    • The level of emotion, in particular negative emotion, expressed towards a parent by carers
    • EE contains several elements:
      • Verbal criticism of the patient
      • Hostility towards the patient
      • Emotional over-involvement in the life of the patient
    • These high levels of EE in carers directed towards the patient are a serious source of stress…


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