Description: Psychologist Oliver James, in a recently released book entitled Not in Your Genes: The Real Reason Parents Are Like Their Children (2016), argues that there is no evidence for the claim that genetics plays any sort of role whatsoever in core disorders such as schizophrenia or manic-depression. The article linked below points out some of the social problems associated with this claim and references more detailed claims by number of researchers arguing that Oliver James is simply wrong. Have a read and see what you think.
Source: Oliver James is dangerously wrong to blame parents for their children’s mental illness, Deborah Orr, The Guardian: Mental Health.
Date: March 12, 2016
Oliver James — Photo Credit: Murdo Macleod for the Guardian
You may recall from one or another of your early psychology courses the claims from decades ago that emotionally distant or “icebox” mothers were responsible for producing autism and their children and that schizophrenigenic mothers are responsible for producing schizophrenia their children. Hopefully also heard that these hypothesis have been soundly refuted and the mother blaming specifically and parent blaming in general is not only unethical but also unfounded. It is certainly true that the way parents treat their children can have serious impacts upon their children’s development, however, the consensus is fairly strong that arguing that parental treatment is entirely and only responsible for producing disorders like schizophrenia is not a valid hypothesis based on readily available data.
Questions for Discussion:
- What is Oliver James claiming about the relationship between genetics, parent behaviour, and mental illness?
- What sort of data does Oliver James offer in support of his claims?
- Are there ethical implications for the claims that James is making in his book and if so is there any particular action or actions that ought to be taken in response to his claims (and if so by who)?
References (Read Further):
James, Oliver (2004) Emotional child abuse has to be banned – the science backs of our instincts, the Guardian, child protection. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/mar/31/emotional-child-abuse-banned-government-love-adult-psychosis