For centuries, people have believed myths and misconceptions about psychological disorders and the people who suffer from them. Modern psychological research has allowed us to correct some of these misconceptions. As a result, many people have changed their ideas about mental and emotional disorders. Think of a common misconception you have observed in society or in your personal experience. How could information from research be used to change people’s views of psychological disorders? How can this information help us to better understand people who experience mental and emotional disorders?


Many people around the world still believe that psychological disorders are simply caused by poor parenting or stressful experiences early in life. However, this misconception is far from what truly causes these disorders. Science over the last decade has improved dramatically, allowing researchers to conclude that psychological disorders such as schizophrenia and affective disorders can be caused by various biological factors including genetic predispositions, abnormal brain activity and biochemical malfunctions in the body. After looking at the scientific background behind these disorders, the misconception that poor parenting leads to the development of these disorders can be easily disproven.


Genetic tendencies have been found in patients with affective disorders, as well as schizophrenia. Researchers have attempted to remove environmental influences as a variable by using identical twins to better understand the causes of schizophrenia and affective disorders. The concordance rate, which looks at the rate at which the disorder is present in genetically identical twins, is 50% for schizophrenia patients and 33% for affective disorder patients. A concordance rate of 50% means that there is a 50% probability that the second twin will be schizophrenic, if one twin is found to be schizophrenic. These probabilities suggest that the genetics is definitely one underlying factor that can cause psychological disorders. Genetic predispositions that are triggered by certain environmental stressors such as malnutrition or brain development have also been suggested as causes. The environment that the patient encounters can influence the way their genes are displayed, a situation known as epigenetics. Hypotheses on the effects of epigenetics on psychoses are also researched using genetically identical twins. Although the twins’ DNA is identical, environmental factors cause changes in the genes and the way they are expressed. If one twin has been exposed to a deleterious environmental condition, but the other twin has not, there are identifiable differences in some genes associated with schizophrenia. Therefore, simply by looking at the genetics behind various psychological disorders, we can show how bad parenting techniques do not influence their onset.


Biochemical malfunctions in the brain have also been discovered in patients with these psychological disorders. For instance, researchers have found that schizophrenic patients seem to have higher levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Studies suggest that these abnormal dopamine levels could be the cause of schizophrenic symptoms including difficulty distinguishing neural “noises” from actual sights and sounds. These observations are also true of the effects of drugs like cocaine and amphetamines, which enhance the amount of dopamine in the brain. Affective disorders are also believed to be influenced by neurotransmitter abnormalities produced by the endocrine system and the way the body responds to stress. Drugs that are capable of altering norepinephrine, serotonin and dopamine levels in affective disorder patients relieved many of their symptoms, which suggest that these chemicals have great influence in causing the disorder. These specific results that suggest abnormal chemical levels in the brain and the rest of the body of patients with psychological disorders, proves that the way a parent treats their child will not bring about the development of a psychological disorder.

Some researchers believe that problems in brain development and function are a key cause to schizophrenic and affective disorders. Brain scans of schizophrenic patients during puberty show a huge loss of grey matter in the temporal lobe and motor cortex over time in individuals who developed schizophrenia. Using study participants with and without a family history of schizophrenia, researchers documented changes in the brain over a period of years in those individuals who developed schizophrenia. Comparative analyses of schizophrenic brains with normal brains also show highly enlarged ventricles in affected patients, which is an indicator that a large amount of neurological tissue has been damaged or lost. Affective disorder patients also show abnormal brain activity, as certain parts of their right and left hemispheres are less active than a normal brain. Scans have also shown an underdevelopment in the frontal lobes and hippocampus of these patients.


From irregular levels of the hormone serotonin, to scans that suggest problems in brain development, many abnormalities have been found that trigger the onset of psychological disorders. Biochemical levels, genetic predispositions and brain development are all key factors leading to the development of psychological disorders. These factors, however, are completely beyond parental control, and therefore completely discredits any misconceptions relating to the idea that bad parenting can lead to the acquisition of psychological disorders such as schizophrenia and affective disorders.