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This paper reports findings from a study of schizophrenic sons and their parents. The sample consisted of mothers, fathers, and young adult sons from three groups: 36 schizophrenics, 13 psychiatrically hospitalized nonschizophrenic controls, and 38 normal controls. A conceptual task, the 20 Questions, was first administered individually to each family member and then to the family as a unit. The performance of each individual and each family was scored on problem-solving efficiency and conceptual level, so that individual could be compared with family performance. Scores of change from individual to family performance were also derived. The most important findings showed that far more schizophrenic than control sons were much more efficient individually than the family. A number of schizophrenic sons performed competently as individuals, but the subsequent performance of the parents and son together on the same task was generally inferior to that of the son alone. In these families, the parents showed more exaggerated forms of deviant behavior than did the parents whose sons' individual performance was less competent. The parents' disturbed styles of communication and interaction may have prevented the family from making full use of the skills of the competent schizophrenic sons and reduced the sons' own competence. In contrast, the parents of both control groups seemed far more able to learn from their competent sons. These findings on the mechanisms which impeded the functioning of families with competent schizophrenic sons have important implications for treatment. They are also hard to reconcile with the assumption that the parents' disturbed behavior was primarily in response to the disturbance of the schizophrenic sons. Instead, they suggest that the parents' behavior may have played a part in producing the sons' schizophrenia.

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