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Psychological Explanations of Schizophrenia- Essay Plan

1. Life events- occurrence of stressful life events (death of a close relative or

break up of a relationship). Brown and Birley 1968- found that about 50%
of people experience a stressful life event in the 3 weeks prior to a
schizophrenic episode, while only 12% reported 1 in 9 weeks prior to that.
This suggests that life events trigger the relapse of schizophrenia as a
healthy control group had low and unchanging levels of stressful life
events over the same period. Hirsch looked at 71 schizophrenic patients
over 48 weeks and concluded that it was clear that life events made a
significant cumulative contribution in the 12 months preceding relapse.
The reason for why stress factors trigger schizophrenia are still unknown,
however Falloon found that high levels of physiological arousal linked with
neurotransmitter changes are thought to be involved.
2. Critical Point 1: There is evidence against the role of stressful life events in
leading to schizophrenia. Van Os reported no link between life events and
the onset of schizophrenia, he found that patients were not more likely to
have had a major stressful life event in the 3 months preceding the onset
of their illness. He also found that in a prospective part of the study those
patients who had experienced a major life event went on to have a lower
likelihood of relapse. Consequently, there is contradictory evidence about
this explanation of schizophrenia and so it is difficult to draw casual
conclusions that can be related to real life applications.
3. Critical Point 2: There is a problem drawing conclusions with this
explanation. This is because evidence that does imply a link between life
events and the onset of schizophrenia is only correlational, there is the
possibility that the beginnings of the disorder (erratic behaviour) were the
cause of the major life events, and once again there is a question of
whether life events are a cause or consequence of the disorder. As a result
of this, the view about life events being a cause of schizophrenia is
weakened due to the failure of being able to draw meaningful conclusions
from the research gathered.
4. Double bind theory- Bateson claims that children who frequently receive
contradictory messages from their parents are more likely to develop
schizophrenia. One example of this is when a mother tells her son she
loves him but then turns her head away in disgust and so the child
receives 2 conflicting messages about their relationship on different
communicative levels, one of affection on verbal level and one of
animosity on the non verbal level. Therefore, the childs ability to respond
to the mother is weakened by these contradictions as one message
invalidates the other. These interactions prevent the development of an
internally coherent construction of reality which in the long term turns into
schizophrenic symptoms (flattened affect and withdrawal).
5. Critical Point 1: This theory has some evidence to support it for instance,
Berger used a retrospective method. He gave out a questionnaire
containing 30 double bind statements and asked the participants to rate
them on a 4 point scale in terms of how frequently they recalled their
mothers using these type of statements. Berger found that the
schizophrenics consistently reported a higher incidence of these
statements than one of the comparison groups (college students).

However he found that the schizophrenics scores were not significantly

higher than the other comparison groups who also had psychiatric and
medical conditions. Therefore, this research provides some evidence for
the double bind theory.
6. Critical Point 2: There is a flaw with retrospective studies. This is that
interpretability of findings is limited by the fact that recall may be
unequally biased in the schizophrenic group. This is because of their
disorganised thought processes, and so it is hard to establish why a
person became schizophrenic in the first place.
7. Critical Point 3: There is some research that does not support Batesons
double bind theory. For example Liem measured patterns of parental
communication in families with a schizophrenic child and found no
difference when compared to normal families. Therefore, this statement
disproves double bind theory and seems to suggest it is useless.
8. Psychodynamic approach- Freud- schizophrenia- result of 2 related
processes, regression to pre-ego state and attempts to re-establish ego
control, some symptoms (delusions of grandeur) reflected this primitive
condition and other symptoms (auditory hallucinations) reflected their
attempts to re-establish ego control.
9. Critical Point 1: Psychoanalysts have claimed that disordered family
patterns are the cause of this disorder. This point is backed up by research
from Fromm-Reichmann who described schizophrenic mothers or
families who are rejecting, overprotective, dominant and moralistic, as
important contributory influences in the development of schizophrenia. As
a result of the method of psychoanalysing is proved slightly useful as if
you change the family environment to a more stable one then children
would be less likely to develop schizophrenia.
10.Critical Point 2: There is further research evidence to support this
statement. Oltmans in 1999 found that parents of schizophrenic patients
do behave differently from parents of other kinds of patients, especially in
the presence of disturbed offspring. However, there is the question as to
whether this factor is a cause or a consequence of their childrens
11.Critical Point 3: Although, there has been no proper research evidence at
all to support Freuds theory. Consequently, this proves the theory useless
and even ignores the basics of psychology being a science as for a theory
to be accepted it has to be falsified which clearly Freuds cannot as it is
based on a subconscious level of understanding.