Trapped: Families and Schizophrenia

Trapped: Families and Schizophrenia

Trapped: Families and Schizophrenia

Trapped: Families and Schizophrenia

Excerpt

This book examines the intimate, detailed life histories of a series of families who live in the slums and public housing projects of San Juan, Puerto Rico. The life stories of these people were gathered in the course of a research study. The purposes of the study were threefold: to identify the distinctive experiences of persons who are nonschizophrenic in comparison with those who are afflicted with schizophrenia; to determine the circumstances associated with the onset of the mental illness; and to assess the impact of mental illness on family life. Briefly stated, the findings indicate that experiences in childhood and adolescence of schizophrenic persons do not differ noticeably from those of persons who are not afflicted with this illness. At an identifiable period in the life of the schizophrenic person, however, a set of interwoven, mutually reinforcing problems produces an onrush of symptoms which overwhelm the victim and prevent him from fulfilling the obligations associated with his accustomed social roles. The impact of schizophrenia on the family depends on the sex of the person afflicted.

We begin the story of our research with the families of orientation in which the sick and well persons were born, then turn to the families of procreation in which they are spouses, and finally focus on their children. We hope our findings, based on the study of a sequence of three generations, contribute to an understanding of schizophrenia as well as to the culture of poverty in an emerging society.

The study was initiated in 1956 when Millard Hansen, Director of the Social Science Research Center of the University of Puerto Rico, invited August B. Hollingshead, a sociologist, and Manuel Augusto Torres Aguiar, M.D., a psychiatrist, to direct an epidemiological study of mental illness on the Island. The prospect of a sociological study of mental illness in a rapidly changing society, such as Puerto Rico, was a challenging opportunity to Hollingshead who for several years had been involved in . . .

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