Evaluation: Social Causation Hypothesis as an Explanation for Schizophrenia


Evaluation of the social causation hypothesis as an explanation for schizophrenia. Includes AO1 and AO3. Spec: Edexcel (new specification), clinical psychology (year 2).
Katie Greensted
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Evaluation: Social Causation Hypothesis as an Explanation for Schizophrenia
  1. Social Adversity
    1. Social adversity is when basic needs such as nutrition, warmth, shelter, intellectual, emotional and social needs are not met by an individual.
      1. People in lower social classes live in less favourable environments which may make them more vulnerable to mental health issues. Families may be affected by poverty, unemployment and poor living standard which will expose them to more stress. Families coming from a lower socio-economic background may lack access to treatments for Sz, exacerbating their problems.
        1. A study found that when an individual is placed in a confrontational situation, the individual may become stressed, suggesting that environmental stressors can contribute to these feelings. This supports the idea that the environment can cause stress, making people more vulnerable to mental health disorders such as schizophrenia.
          1. The social drift hypothesis refutes the social causation hypothesis as it suggests that people with disorders like schizophrenia drift down the social classes as they struggle to hold down a job, for example. This idea would suggest that social adversity is a consequence of schizophrenia, rather than a cause.
          2. Urbanicity
            1. Urbanicity refers to the impact living in an urban environment has on an individual, such as living in inner city areas.
              1. There are more environmental stressors linked to city life, such as noise and light pollution, criminality, a faster pace and greater anonymity. Furthermore, cities being more crowded makes life more competitive, which again increases an individual's stress and could make them more vulnerable to disorders like schizophrenia.
                1. Eaton found that city life increases stress levels due to long lasting exposure to noise and light etc. This could support the hypothesis as it suggests the more stress an individual is exposed to, the more likely they are to develop a disorder like schizophrenia.
                  1. This is backed up by Pederson and Morten, who found that individuals who spent their first 15 years of life in the city were 3x more likely to develop sz.
                  2. However, people with schizophrenia may move to the city in order to have better access to treatment and perhaps for greater anonymity, which may be why incidence in cities seems to be larger.
                  3. Social Isolation
                    1. Social isolation is when an individual withdraws themselves from social situations and becomes isolated.
                      1. High anonymity within city areas may lead to people withdrawing from society and therefore increases their stress. Minority groups may withdraw as they are seen as the 'out' group, increasing their environmental stress.
                      2. immigration and Minority Status
                        1. Minority status refers to groups in society that are considered to be a part of an out group, such as immigrants.
                          1. The marginalisation of minority groups may lead to isolation due to discrimination and a weaker cultural identity. This makes them more vulnerable as it places more stress on the individual.
                            1. Boyell et al found that first and second generation immigrants are at a greater risk of Sz than the general population. However, as the number of people from the same ethnic background increases, the risk of developing schizophrenia decreases. This suggests that an out-group minority status increases the risk of developing schizophrenia.
                              1. However, minority groups may be less likely to seek help and get early intervention, especially if their culture heavily stigmatises mental health disorders. This might explain why it seems more prevalent in minority groups (as it isn't being treated).
                            2. The social causation hypothesis suggests that the human environment acts as a major cause of schizophrenia, or may at least contribute to the relapse of those already with a diagnosis.
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