3.2 Theories of an Environmental/Experiential Cause

Environmental/experiential theories are very different to biological theories, and begin from an altogether different premise. Biological theories largely disregard or discount any concept of mind, preferring instead to assume that abnormalities of thought are caused by abnormalities in brain functioning. Environmental/experiential theories, on the other hand, assume that the symptoms of schizophrenia are manifestations of a person’s mind, rather than their brain.

An individual’s experience within the family environment is the matrix from which many environmental/experiential theories arise. Family life, particularly during infancy and early childhood, is often seen as the place and time where the fundamental characteristics of a person’s mind are formed. It is malformations of mental characteristics that are variously blamed by the environmental determinists as causes of schizophrenia.

Talking therapies can be divided into a number of different types. There are those which assume the fault is a problem of intrapsychic development: that is, that it is in the psychological makeup of the schizophrenic, and that it can be corrected by making the affected individual more aware of the problem; there are those which assume the fault is with the schizophrenic’s family, or a particular member of the family, and can be corrected by making adjustments to family structures; and there are those which assume the fault is in a competitive/hostile social environment to which the schizophrenic is maladapted.