Thesis directed by Associate Professor Peter G. Ossorio
A major portion of the theoretical and empirical research has concerned the family of the schizophrenic. The Palo Alto group, the Yale group, and the NIMH group have developed concepts related to the idea that problematic family relationships play a critical role in creating a certain sort of deficit in the children in these families. Various problems in communication, family role structure, and parent-child emotional relationships have been cited by these three major groups and by others as potentiating a child toward schizophrenic psychosis in early adulthood.
Although a variety of studies of child rearing practices and interpersonal interactions have yielded results in support of various aspects of these theories, these concepts and research methods can be questioned. These concepts were shown to be non-comparable across theorists. Secondly, no theorist seems to give an adequate description of a complete learning history culminating in schizophrenic psychosis. The methodology has been hampered by the underdevelopment of these concepts and the failure of researchers to develop their instruments from a systematic conceptualization. Finally only the studies of a child at-risk for schizophrenia have attempted to resolve the issue as to whether the child's psychosis led to the types of parental relationships postulated or whether these parental relationships existed prior to the child's being designated schizophrenic.
A conceptualization was developed using concepts of rational competence and self-concept from Descriptive Psychology. Certain types of schizogenic discipline and problematic negotiation were proposed as significant social practices occurring in families with sons designated schizophrenic. A research design was developed to test the above notions and to compare families with a schizophrenic son to families with younger sons not designated schizophrenic. Part of the younger sons were hypothesized to have a deficit in rational competence significant in potentiating that person to schizophrenia in early adulthood. It was hypothesized that parents of these sons would discipline and negotiate like parents of the schizophrenic sons.
Discipline data was gathered via a questionnaire and interview. Negotiation data was generated via a family discussion session. Results of the discipline data confirmed the hypothesis that schizophrenic sons perceive their parents as disciplining schizogenically, but only fathers of these sons rated themselves as disciplining in these ways. Interview data yielded no significant pattern of differences. Both fathers and sons of schizogenic families were rated as significantly worse negotiators than members of other families. In addition, sons and fathers of young children rated as having a deficit in rational competence were rated as worse negotiators than fathers and sons of younger children rated as being above average in negotiating competence. However, fathers of an older normal group and fathers of the poor younger son negotiators tended to negotiate more alike than differently. Mothers of all families tended to negotiate alike and as a group better than fathers and sons.
These results confirmed the hypotheses that families with a young adult son designated schizophrenic differ significantly from other families on measures of discipline and negotiation. Whether the son's behavior precedes this sort of family interaction or not remains problematic. [254 pp.]