Humans are inherently rational.
Yes, I realize that sounds like an irrational statement.
But think about it. Our ancestors didn’t just look up at the big ball of fire crossing the sky and go, “Huh. Oh, well,” and then go on with their day.
No, they had an innate need to explain what they were seeing. Oh sure, their explanation was that the sun was carried across the sky by a God on a chariot, but it was still an explanation.
Other animals certainly observe their environment. Our dogs are watching me right now. But that is reactive.
Humans ask “Why?”
And this is a double-edged sword. It drives our quest for knowledge. We know what we know because of this.
But that desire to explain is so powerful that it creates the tendency to attribute causes to events that are not in fact true.
And so it is with psychosis and abuse.
There are still some people who believe schizophrenia is caused by childhood trauma. I understand this. It is an easy explanation.
And it gives us someone to hate. In rhetoric, we call this “humanizing the issue.” It is easier for people to care about people than about issues, which can be more abstract. I ask you for money for a cause and you may say no. But I put a child in front of you who needs help for that very issue and it becomes almost impossible to say no.
By the way, many charities exploit that reaction in you. They show you pictures of suffering children and you get on the phone with your credit card. You want to help. Unfortunately, they don’t tell you that only 10 cents of your donation will ever reach its intended target. They prey upon your desire to save a child. That makes them scum and you a good human being.
Schizophrenia, of course, is not a person. It is a “thing,” a thing that we have only the barest understanding of. But a parent is a human being and therefore easier to direct your anger, the manifestation of your feeling of powerlessness.
Hence part of the reason why the concept of psychosis being caused by abuse remains alive in fringe psychology.
Those that cling to this belief, known as the “trauma model,” point to studies that show a correlation between abuse and psychotic illnesses. A correlation simply means that two things appear together in a statistical significant way. It does not mean one is caused by the other.
First, in those studies, have you ever looked at the average age of participants? They’re not young kids. They are people whose onset of illness occurred before the advent of modern Child Protective Services in the 1970s. Therefore, they ignore the cultural shift that occurred in America in the 1980s and 90s as we became a more child-centric culture.
Do you remember what it was like to be a kid in the Seventies? Kids were an afterthought. Our society flipped to a near paranoia over child safety as the Baby Boomers had kids in the 80s, leading to mass hysterical accusations of child abuse rivaling the Salem Witch Trials.
Studies that show a correlation between abuse and psychosis involve subjects born in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. Are there studies looking for a correlation between abuse in psychosis and children born after the 1980s? No.
American culture has changed. For thirty years we have lived in a child centric culture… except perhaps for SMI kids.
So we no longer live in a culture that turns a blind eye to abuse. Spank your kid at risk of losing your child.
“Mandated reporters” are everywhere. Doctors, teachers, therapists.
I am not going to say that abuse doesn’t happen anymore but I imagine it has to be pretty damn hard unless the child is totally isolated from society. Somebody is going to ask questions. Someone is going to report.
Then there is the issue of how do we define “abuse?”
CPS defines it as the “Big Three:” sexual, physical, and neglect.
Emotional abuse, because the major difficulty in defining it, is not counted. Emotional abuse is subjective, hence the reason why it is not criminally prosecuted. And by the way, I am not talking about PTSD, which is a psychiatric diagnosis triggered by extended and intense periods of existing in a “fight or flight” state.
Yet, 9 times out of 10 it is the amorphous “emotional trauma” that advocates of the trauma model point to.
In terms of sexual, physical abuse, and neglect, there is no higher rate amongst severely mentally ill children than the general population….
…as long as they stay with their parents. In residentials and foster homes, the numbers are exponentially higher than the general population. I don’t say to demonize foster parents. Most are not abusive and are fantastic parents. That is just the stats. In Texas, the rate of abuse amongst those in foster care or residential is a whopping 4000% higher than the general population.
I am not saying that the trauma model needs to be abandoned to spare the poor parents. Parents of SMI kids go through way more difficult things. What the peanut gallery says means nothing.
No, the concept that psychosis comes from abuse is dangerous because it is a simple explanation that prevents us from looking for the real cause. It takes us away from biology and provides a simple answer that if the child was removed from the perceived abuse, he/she would recover. This prevents us from pushing for research and medical treatments. In other words, the trauma model negates the need for research. That is its biggest risk and why it must be abandoned.
Thankfully, some of our ancestors didn’t accept that the sun was pulled across the sky by a chariot. Because of them, we now know the sun appears to move because we are turning on our axis.
Relativity is a bitch.
If we keep defaulting to abuse as the cause of psychosis, we lose the perspective of the greater environment.