A comparison of parental attitudes of mothers of schizophrenic, brain injured, and normal children
Klebanoff, Lewis Bernard
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A review of the literature on childhood schizophrenia reveals a bipolar difference of opinion concerning etiology. One opinion is that the impact on the child of the mother's behavioral expression of pathological attitudes toward child rearing and the family brings about a schizophrenic reaction; the other opinion is that there is an as yet undiscovered organic reason for the child's symptoms and that pathological attitudes observed in the mother arise as a result of the stress of trying to deal with the disordered child. The present study is designed to compare maternal attitudes of mothers of schizophrenic children, mothers of similarly behaving retarded and brain injured children, and mothers of normal children. The subjects were 15 mothers of hospitalized schizophrenic children with certain speech and behavior symptoms, 15 mothers of hospitalized brain injured and retarded children with similar behavior symptoms, and 26 mothers, all of whose children are and have been free of any serious chronic disorder. The Parental Attitude Research Instrument, developed by Schaefer and Bell at the National Institute of Mental Health, a paper and pencil questionnaire consisting of 23 five-item scales, was administered to each subject. Personal data about the age of the mother, her education, religion, husband's occupation, number of children, and family medical history was obtained from each mother after she had finished the PARI. The results support the hypothesis that the mothers 128 of schizophrenic children do not display more pathological attitudes than mothers of similarly behaving organic children, but that both groups have more pathological attitudes than mothers of normal children. The results support the hypothesis that the mothers of schizophrenic children do not display more pathological attitudes than the mothers of organic children on any of the five factors into which the PARI was analyzed, but that both groups have more pathological attitudes with respect to "Over-possessiveness" than mothers of normals. There were no significant differences between the attitudes of groups S and O on the variables of age of onset of the child's symptoms, age at time of hospitalization, sex of the patient, whether patient was first-born child, and whether the mother had subsequently had a normal child. The results further show that in addition to the differences among the groups based upon the condition of the child, the mothers' attitudes also varied according to their education, religion, and socioeconomic grouping. The findings tend to support the general hypothesis that mothers who are faced with comparably disturbed behavior will manifest comparable attitudes toward child rearing and the family and will manifest more pathological attitudes than mothers of normal children who present no special problem. The findings cast doubt upon the hypothesis that maternal attitudes are the cause of childhood schizophrenia. The likelihood of observed maternal attitudes being a combination of prior and reactive attitudes was discussed. The fact that within each group were mothers with widely disparate attitudes was also discussed. Also noted was the possibility that the severity of symptoms of the organically ill children might not be solely the result of organic factors. The merits of the "spectrum" idea of causation of childhood schizophrenia were highlighted. According to this notion, organic predisposition would occupy one end of the scale and psychological traumata the other. Either extreme or any combination might precipitate the same clinical pattern in different children. It was suggested that intensive investigation might disclose that the characteristics thought to be peculiar to mothers of schizophrenic children may be shared by many or all mothers of severely disordered children.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Boston University
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