What is the Schizophrenogenic Mother?

What is the Schizophrenogenic Mother?

This video describes the concept of the schizophrenogenic mother. This is a theory that was based on research that occurred in the 1930s and continued all the way through the 1970s. The word schizophrenogenic means something that causes schizophrenia. The term mother refers to the mother of an individual with schizophrenia. In this original theory, it was thought that an overprotective and rejecting mother could cause schizophrenia. The early research on this theory was in the 1930s. There was a study with 45 participants who had schizophrenia. Two of the participants had mothers that were classified as rejecting and 33 were classified as overprotective. Early on we can see there are some methodological problems with the research. There was an association drawn that really wasn’t there in the first place, but this led to further studies in the 40s, 50s, and 60s. A number of these studies tended to support this theory and the idea of the schizophrenic mother was expanded. this maternal style involves someone who is dominating, cold, distant, overprotecting, rejecting, poor with maintaining boundaries, intrusive, hostile, aggressive, and demanding. The definition was expanded and the idea of the schizophrenogenic family was created. A lot of this research from the 30s all the way through the 70s used case studies and small sample sizes. Also, there were studies that did not have control groups, which means they weren’t studying the maternal styles of individuals who did not have schizophrenia, rather they were only looking at the maternal styles of individuals who did have schizophrenia. These studies led to a real commitment to this belief and the theory was popular for a long time. In the 70s and 80s we saw studies come out that started to question the schizophrenogenic mother theory and suggested that there really wasn’t hardly any association between that maternal style and the developing of schizophrenia. For a long time, the theory of the schizophrenogenic mother was based on the idea that this maternal style was overrepresented with people who had schizophrenia and it turns out it really wasn’t.
There are a lot of lessons to learn from the theory of the schizophrenogenic mother. This theory was popular for around 40 years even though there was little evidence to support it. This speaks to the importance of good research methodology and careful interpretation of research results. We have to be careful when converting association or correlation over to causality. Those constructs aren’t the same, however, this seems to be a common mistake in a number of fields including mental health treatment and psychopathology.

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