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Critical Views of the Family Radical Psychiatry
Edmund Leach In “Runaway World” Leach suggests that the nuclear family is a negative force in industrial society Modern nuclear families he argues are isolated from kin and community. He compares the nuclear family to an overloaded electrical circuit Because it is isolated family members expect far too much from their families
Edmund Leach 2 Isolation and over expectation cause stress and tension within families Isolated stressed families also results in hate and fear in wider society too – the privatised family huddles together and grows fearful and mistrustful of the outside world. “Privacy is the source of fear and violence. Violence in the world comes because human beings are forever creating barriers between men who are like us and men who are not like us”
Edmund Leach 3 Leach concludes that people need to break out of the oppressive prison of the nuclear family and reconnect with society His conclusion is the complete opposite of the functionalist view “Far from being the basis of the good society, the family, with its narrow privacy and tawdry secrets, is the source of all our discontents”
RD Laing “The Politics of the Family” Laing studied the connection between family experience and the development of schizophrenia Schizophrenia he argues can only be understood in the context of family relationships Within the context of a families interactions a schizophrenic’s behaviour can be seen as reasonable.
Laing Families Laing argues operate on the basis of alliances and tactical games for “favour” The family is seen as a destructive and exploitative institution.
The example of “Jane” Jane is diagnosed as schizophrenic and appears to live in a “dream world” sitting motionless She believes herself to be in a game of tennis (mixed doubles). She is the ball. Her mother and father constantly fight and use Jane as the go between. When the strain is too much she disappears into her dream world. Even in her dream she cannot escape family conflict as the dream symbolises the way her family interact
How Families are harmful Laing argues the families battle for acceptance, respect, concern and attention. There is a constant battle with family members seeking protection from the negative opinions of other family members Families act as “gangsters” offering mutual protection against each others violence
How the Family harms society Families draw a defensive barrier between themselves and the outside world This results in attitudes which see the world as “them and us” – the foundations of racist attitudes Families value obedience. This produces authoritarian personalities who believe that orders should always be followed without question – there are many negative consequences to this
Criticisms of Leach and Laing Laing’s researched is restricted to the families of schizophrenics Both ignore social factors such as class and ethnicity Their work lacks historical perspective They have been characterised as extreme views Now Try this interactive exercise