I’m going to have to come clean early in my blog. For some time now it has been no longer permissable to blame the parents especially the “mother” for a child’s schizophrenia. But surely it would be remiss of me to attribute my son’s problems entirely to him. I am operating on the assumption that I can help his healing if I find out what it is about me that has affected him. We have heard over and over again that the parents are not to blame. Maybe so, but since schizophrenia emerges in the teenage years, parents are the people who have controlled the environment up until then.
Dr. Loren Mosher was a former chief (1969–1980) of the Center for Studies of Schizophrenia at the National Institute of Mental Health. He blamed schizophrenia on bad parenting, typically by the mother: “There are two aspects of family life that have been consistently highly associated with what’s called schizophrenia. One has been dubbed ‘communication deviance.’ It’s simple. Just means that when you sit with these parents, you can’t figure out what the hell it is they’re talking about. They can’t focus on things. You can’t visualize what they say. They go off on tangents. They are loose in the way that they think.” He stated that the other thing that was clear from studies was that “when families are very hostile to and critical of their offspring, that’s not good for them.”
Dr. Mosher’s patronizing view of the parents echoes the view of Dr. Leo Kanner, who wrote the first English language textbook on child psychiatry in 1935. In it, he adopted the term “infantile autism” to describe a set of behavioral characteristics of certain aloof children. “All too often this child is the offspring of highly organized, professional parents, cold and rational—the type that Dr. Kanner describes as “just happening to defrost enough to produce a child.” Such a mother became popularly known as a “refrigerator mother”, a term used for mothers of autistics but also of schizophrenics.
An article in the British Journal of Medical Psychology (1961) claimed: “In the interviews they manifested chaotic forms of communication while sounding superficially sensible. . . The mothers of schizophrenics did not adapt well to external reality, as shown by poor reality testing, marked denial, and projection. Disorders of thought were prominent, giving an impression of ‘diluted schizophrenia’ in these mothers.”
I am willing to entertain the thought that I may have communication deviance while sounding superficially sensible. I have always thought of myself as on track and a cut to the chase type of person. Nobody has ever accused me of not being on track. Come to think of it, my university English professor once said that I write well, but vaguely. Hmm. Since I started paying attention to this flaw, I have stopped using vague terms like “seems to” and “appears to”. I am trying hard to be more definitive, if only to avoid an impression of diluted schizophrenia. There are enough people around me at work who give off this impression.
1. The Child Is Father, Time (July 25, 1960), http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,826528,00.html