Biological Explanations of Schizophrenia

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Describe and evaluate biological explanations of schizophrenia (24 marks)
Schizophrenia is a psychotic disorder characterized by distorted thinking, impaired emotional responses, poor interpersonal skills and a distortion of reality. It is the most common of psychotic disorders that, in most countries around the world, affects around 1 per cent of the population. In terms of explanations for the disorder, two central types of explanations arise – psychological explanations and biological explanations. Whereas psychological explanations tend to focus on cognitive, emotional and environmental factors that may cause the disorder, biological explanations tend to focus on genetic, biochemical and neuro-anatomical factors as the cause of the
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As Joseph (2004) pointed out, however, this is not always the case. Monozygotic twins are more likely to be treated in a similar way, encounter more similar environments, and be to be thought of as ‘the twins’ rather than two separate individuals. This, in turn, can lead to ‘identity confusion’ and so potentially a higher concordance rate amongst monozygotic twins. Therefore Joseph argues that the greater concordance rate seen in monozygotic twins than in dizygotic twins is a result of the differing attitudes and environments experienced by the two types of twins.
Adoption studies have also been used to determine whether home environment or genetic disposition are more influential in the causation of schizophrenia, as usually in twin studies twins are both genetically related and experience the same environment. Kety (1994) found high rates of schizophrenia in individuals whose biological parents were schizophrenic but were adopted by psychologically healthy parents. The most methodologically sound of adoption studies, though, was carried out by Tienari et al (2000) in Finland. In the study 164 adoptees whose biological mothers were schizophrenic were compared to 197 adoptees whose mothers were psychologically healthy. It was found that 6.7 per cent of the experimental group (those with schizophrenic mothers) developed
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