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Open Questions on the Correlation Between Television and Violence

by Jonathan Vos Post
March 12, 1995 Keywords: Aggression, Arousal, Catharsis, Disinhibition, Psychology, Sociology, Media, Movies, Multimedia, Television, Violence, Virtual Reality Hypertext Table of Contents

Introduction

Comparisons of Four Major Theories of Television Violence and Aggression

(1) Arousal (2) Social Learning (3) Disinhibition (4) Aggression Reduction

Early Arguments about Television

History and Catharsis

What is Aggression?

Hitting Dolls; Hitting Children

Adult Effects Arguable

Other Media -- and Multimedia

Cultural and Inter-cultural Considerations

Conclusion

References

Introduction

How and why does mass media influence people? In particular, how and why does television violence cause aggression (if indeed it does)? The social psychology point of view includes the "arousal theory", the "social learning" theory, the "disinhibition" theory, and the "aggression reduction" theory, all of which will be defined and discussed in this paper. There are other theories such as the "social comparison" theory and the "modeling precision" theory which are excluded from consideration here due to limitations of length. Yet no one theory has predominated, and the debates on media and violence, in particular, have heated up over the years. This paper presents an integrated, albeit brief, examination of the key questions and the difficulties in answering them scientifically. There is a "general consensus among social scientists that television violence increases the propensity to real-life aggression among some viewers," and yet, paradoxically, "there is presently little evidence indicating that violence enhances program popularity" (Diener & DeFour, 1978). Top government studies insist that "violent material is popular" (Surgeon General's Scientific Advisory Committee on Television and Social Behavior, 1972). Differing conclusions may be viable. One leading social psychologist flatly states that "evidence suggests that violence on television is potentially dangerous, in that it serves as a model for behavior -- especially for children" (Aronson, 1995, p.265). How can there be such a difference in the basic conclusions of credible scientists performing valid scientific studies? Why are there so many open questions in this important area? This paper does not resolve the unresolved problems of television and violence, but examines some of the definitional matters, contextual issues, and boundary conditions that make the relationship between television and violence so difficult to quantify.

Comparisons of Four Major Theories of Television Violence and Aggression

(1) Arousal P. H. Tannebaum is the leading exponent of the "arousal hypothesis," which holds that exposure to television violence increases aggression because violence increases excitation, or "arouses" viewers (Tannenbaum & Zillman, 1975). "Increased aggression follows when it is appropriate as a response, which is almost always the case in television-and-aggression experiments. The implications are threefold: (1) television violence may stimulate classes of behavior other than aggression; (2) classes of content other than violence may stimulate aggression; and (3) many effects demonstrated in laboratory experiments and in real life may hinge on the point on the curve of increasing arousal at which the editing of a film sequence leaves the viewer [due to censorship or 'off-stage' conventions for death and sex]. The hypothesis is supported by studies demonstrating that humorous, erotic, violent, and other classes of content hypothesized to be arousing increase physiological measures of excitation among college-age subjects; that exposure to humorous, erotic, and other classes of arousing visual portrayals lead to greater subsequent aggression on the part of college-age subjects than less excitatory fare; and that both physiological arousal and level of behavior will vary depending on whether a film sequence ends on an exciting note or concludes with blander depictions. Tannenbaum is an advocate of testing hypotheses in order to construct theory, a proponent of rigorous laboratory experimentation in order to infer cause and effect, and a skeptic over whether violent content per se is responsible for the increased aggression observed following the viewing of television violence" (Comstock & Lindsey, 1975, p.26). (2) Social Learning Bandura is the leading proponent of "social learning" theory. His central proposition is that ways of behaving are learned by observing others, and that this is a major means by which children acquire unfamiliar behavior, although performance of acquired behavior will depend at least in part on factors other than acquisition (Bandura, 1973). "One of the many testable hypotheses derived from this theory is the proposition that children will learn from observing portrayals on television as well as from observing the actions of live persons. Findings from a wide range of laboratory experiments support this proposition. In many of the experiments, the television stimuli have consisted of some form of aggressive behavior, and the dependent variable has been the recording of imitative aggression in play. Subjects typically are young children, often of nursery-school age. What has been clearly demonstrated is that children can acquire aggressive ways of behaving from television and will exhibit these aggressive responses in play behavior. Bandura, like Tannenbaum, believes in the testing of hypotheses in order to construct theory and in rigorous laboratory experimentation in order to infer cause and effect. However, unlike Tannenbaum, his focus has been on the acquisition of behavior. His social learning theory, which has been one of the most refined and well-tested theories in the social sciences, has been one of the two most influential sources of research on television and aggression. It is far from limited to acquisition, but encompasses the attributes of the individual, the observed stimuli, and the environment likely to facilitate or inhibit performance of observationally acquired responses" (Comstock & Lindsey, 1975, pp.26-27). (3) Disinhibition Berkowitz has been the leading investigator of the "disinhibition hypothesis," which posits that television violence in certain circumstances will result in increased interpersonal aggression because it weakens inhibitions against such behavior (Berkowitz, 1962). "The findings so far suggest that such circumstances include those in which the television violence is rewarded, those in which cues similar to those in television portrayal appear in the environment, and those in which the environment contains a target who has previously provoked or harmed the viewer. Like Tannenbaum and Bandura, Berkowitz believes in testing hypotheses in order to construct theory and in rigorous control in order to infer cause and effect. However, unlike Tannenbaum, he has been interested in the direct contribution of television violence to the performance of acquired behavior. And unlike both Tannenbaum and Bandura, his most recent research has involved naturalistic field experiments on the effects of television violence of subsequent interpersonal aggression" (Comstock & Lindsey, 1975, p.27). (4) Aggression Reduction Feshbach is conventionally identified as a proponent of the "catharsis hypothesis," but this misstates a complex situation. It would be more accurate to identify him as a proponent of an "aggression reduction hypothesis" which holds that under certain conditions exposure to television violence will reduce subsequent aggression (Feshbach, 1961). "One such condition is said to occur when viewers are deficient in the ability to invent aggressive fantasies, the entertainment of which Feshbach hypothesizes is helpful in self-control of aggressive impulses. Television violence, it is argued, supplies material for such fantasies, thus reducing aggressive behavior. Another condition is said to occur when the television violence creates aggression anxiety, which leads to the inhibition of aggressive impulses. There is very little support in the scientific literature for the original, pure 'catharsis hypothesis' which held that television violence would reduce subsequent aggression by lowering aggressive drive through vicarious participation in aggression. Initial findings which appeared to support such a view have come to be viewed instead as reflecting the effects of aggression anxiety" (Comstock & Lindsey, 1975, pp.27-28). Feshbach, like Tannenbaum, Bandura, and Berkowitz "believes in the testing of hypotheses in order to construct theory and in rigorous control in order to infer cause and effect. However, quite unlike the previous three, he has focused on the circumstances under which television violence leads to a reduction in subsequent aggression" (Comstock & Lindsey, 1975, p.28). We will consider this theory later in the context of Aristotelian analysis of drama in general.

Early Arguments about Television

The social psychology of television has been analyzed since before television became the dominant broadcast medium. Carl Hovland expressed the opinion almost 50 years ago that "while we do not today have a 'psychology of communications' we now have all the essential ingredients -- the research techniques, the concepts and hypotheses, and the problems -- to permit developing a genuine science of communications in the coming decade or two" (Schramm, 1948, p.65). He laid out the task of analysis as consisting of three aspects: "(1) the cues (or stimuli) transmitted by the communicator; (2) the responses made by the communicatee; (3) the laws and principles relating these two classes of events" (Schramm, 1948, p.59). In Hovland's pioneering analysis, the problem from a theoretical standpoint is "how can stimuli ... bring about various desired changes in response?" (Schramm, 1948, p.61). He emphasizes learning theory, and what is now called "persuasion theory" in that the communicator has the explicit intention of changing comunicatee behavior. Three examples: "One objective is to arouse drives, as when an advertiser wishes to arouse a taste for his brand of cigarette. Some communications have as their objective the teaching of new habits. A recipe column in the newspaper may attempt to teach the housewife how to bake a cake. Finally, other communications may have the function of weakening other drives or other already acquired habits, as in the counselling situation the therapist communicates in terms of allaying fears or breaking bad habits" (Schramm, 1948, pp.61-62). At the same time, Hugh M. Belville, Jr., the director of research for the National Broadcasting Company, attempted to predict "the challenge of the new media" (Schramm, 1948, pp.127-141) with a consideration for students and researchers about television, FM radio, and "facsimile broadcasting" (fax). Belville claimed that "in 1947 television rounded that corner behind which it had lurked for so many years; 1948 will bring this medium sharply into focus as the world's greatest means of mass communication" (Schramm, 1948, p.127). Belville shot down the analogy that "by adding sight to sound, television has done the same thing for radio that the addition of sound accomplished for silent motion pictures" (Schramm, 1948, p.129). and offers the novel concept that "the viewer gets a feeling of 'being there,' of immediacy which gives to telecasts authority and significance possessed by no other medium of mass communications" (loc.cit). Today we would describe "being there" as an attribute of "telepresence" and Virtual Reality, but those notions were unimaginable in 1947. Instead, Belville gave examples of political impact: "No one who saw the telecast of President Truman's short message to the Congress on the Greek-Turkish Aid Program, and who viewed the grim countenances of Mr. Truman, the Cabinet, and Congressional leaders, could have escaped the fact that this was indeed a dramatic event which marked a radical change in the whole course, not only of American foreign policy but of history itself" (loc.cit.). John E. Ivey, Jr., director of the division of research interpretation of the North Carolina Institute for Research in Social Science, outlined the challenge of television to social psychology researchers in "Communications as a social instrument" (Schramm, 1947, pp.142-155). He claimed that "The psychologist and social psychologist have been able to simulate social situations in the laboratories. However, they have not yet had enough experience in testing hypotheses, and developing theory, growing out of studies of real life situation" (Schramm, 1947, p.144). Ivey listed three areas of communications research, five factors which condition this problem, and six investigative problems associated with securing the desired response from the communicatee. He then presents five sample hypotheses, perhaps the most relevant to this paper of which is "The intensity and variety of communication forces operating in a community would demonstrate differentials according to: (a) socio-economic strata within the community; (b) nature and complexity of social organization in the community; (c) rural-urban differentials in social and cultural characteristics; (d) regional characteristics within a society; (e) value systems shaping the form and content of social action in the community" (Schramm, 1947, p.154). Ivey finally warns, ominously, that "The technological revolution we are now going through will far outstrip our ability as groups to go through social change .... Then the consensus which is essential to social organization will be lost and, therefore, our civilization will be lost" (Schramm, 1947, p.155).

History and Catharsis

We must acknowledge that the relationship between violence and media, and the arguments as to their mutual influence significantly precede the existence of television. Some 2,500 years ago the same essential questions were asked about drama acted by live actors in theatrical presentations. Aristotle suggested that drama was effective and desirable because of "catharsis." This meant that the audience becomes psychologically involved with the story on stage, even though they know it is only fiction, and that when aggression climaxes among the actors, there is a "catharsis" or release of pressure in the audience, which is pleasurable to experience and leaves them cleansed, uplifted, and less likely to act violently themselves. Sigmund Freud agreed with this idea, and said that "Unless people were allowed to express themselves aggressively, the aggressive energy would be dammed up, pressure would build, and the aggressive energy would seek an outlet, either exploding into acts of extreme violence or manifesting itself as symptoms of mental illness .... But there is no direct evidence for this conclusion" (Aronson, 1995, p.258). In citing Feshbach and the "aggression reduction" theory, we are in essence extending an ancient hypothesis into the realm of modern media, but numerous experts other than Feshbach agree with Aronson that there is little scientific evidence for this appealing and conventional view. Aronson cites studies on catharsis in sports activities by William Menninger (Aronson, 1995, p.258), L. Berkowitz (op.cit., p.259), Arthur Patterson (loc.cit.), and Warren Johnson (loc.cit.) which "could find no simple, unequivocal findings to support the contention that intense physical activity reduces aggression (loc.cit).... [and] no consistent evidence to support the notion of catharsis" (loc.cit). Similarly, Aronson cites Dane Archer and Rosemary Gartner (op.cit., p.264) as showing that a nation's being at war does not have a cathartic effect on reducing aggressiveness at home, but actually encourages domestic violence. It stands to reason that if no consistent correlation can be established between actual physical aggression in socially acceptable forms and resulting hostility or socially unacceptable aggression, then how can we expect to find such a correlation with merely simulated or fictional aggression? Indeed, Aronson insists that "in a classic series of experiments, Albert Bandura and his associates demonstrated that watching violence on television also failed to yield cathartic effects. Quite the contrary; simply seeing another person behave aggressively can increase the aggressive behavior of young children (Aronson, 1995, p.265)."

What is Aggression?

Besides the ambiguities in linking violence on television with actual aggression, it is not clear what we really mean by "aggression." Aronson points out that the same term is used regarding the Boston Strangler, a football tackle, a "go-getter" insurance salesperson, a little girl who "clobbers" her brother, a "passive aggressive" husband sulking in the corner of a party, "a child who wets the bed, a jilted boyfriend who threatens suicide" or a student persistently struggling with a math problem (Aronson, 1995, p.249). Aronson tries to distinguish between behavior that harms or does not harm others, and applies the term "aggression" only to "behavior aimed at causing harm or pain" (Aronson, 1995, p.250), and then further tries to subdivide aggression into an intentional end-in-itself "hostile" type and a goal-oriented "instrumental" type (loc.cit.). But this does not help us solve the problem of violence and television, because we still have no widely-accepted, clear-cut, and scientific definition for either the aggressive acts on television or those purportedly caused by television upon its audience. In addition to uncertainties in the definition of aggression, there is no agreement on whether aggression is instinctive as opposed to learned, and whether or not it can be "good." Aronson cites the 18th century Rousseau's "noble savage" concept that we are aggressive only because of a restrictive society (Aronson, 1995, p.251), and Freud's position that we are innately brutal and aggressive and can only constrain that through society's law and order (loc.cit.). The issue of learning is crucial to the "social learning" theory of Bandura. Aronson cites Anthony Storr as saying that humans are uniquely aggressive among all animals, to the point of wanton destructiveness unmatched by any mere brutes (Aronson, 1995, pp.251-252). Zing Yang Kuo is given as a supporting researcher, who raised cats that are always friendly to rats, rather than being programmed from birth to stalk and kill (Aronson, 1995, p.252). John Paul Scott is said to conclude that "there is no inborn need for fighting" (loc.cit.), and Konrad Lorentz is cited as proving exactly the opposite through ethological observations of aggressive fish in natural environments and in aquariums. Lorentz argues not only that aggression is innate, but that it is inherently good, in that it "is an essential part of the life-preserving organization of instincts" (Aronson, 1995, pp.252-253).

Hitting Dolls; Hitting Children

Thus, even if it could be proven -- as it has not yet been -- that television violence increases aggression in the audience, that would not allow us to conclude that television violence has a "bad" effect on people. The Bandura experiments involve children watching TV tapes of adults knocking around a plastic "Bobo" doll, and then the children imitate this behavior. As Aronson puts it, "Who cares what a kid does to a Bobo doll?" (Aronson, 1995, p.265). Aronson cautions, however, that George Gerbner and his associates have spent over 25 years analyzing prime-time and Saturday morning TV. "They have found that violence prevails in eight out of every ten programs. Moreover, an average of five or six violent incidents occurs each hour. And what about cartoons, the favorite television fare of most young children? They contain the most violence -- roughly eighteen acts of aggression every hour. The most recent evidence suggests that by the time he or she is twelve years old the average child will have witnessed 100,000 acts of violence on TV" (Aronson, 1995, p.265). Liebert and Baron are said (loc.cit.) to have shown that cops-and-robbers TV shows led to more aggression against other children than did exciting sporting events on TV. Ross Parke supposedly saw the same effects from exposure to seeing "just one movie, and that the increase in aggressive behavior was most pronounced in those boys who were initially lower in aggression" (Aronson, 1995, p.266) William Josephson supposedly saw the same kind of increased aggressive acts between youngsters who watched police violence films, as opposed to exciting bike racing films, and later played floor hockey (Aronson, 1995, p.267). Yet, exactly in opposition to Ross Parke et.al., Josephson saw increased aggression among those children who were initially higher in aggression. So even very similar experiments which seem on the surface to produce similar results (i.e. viewed violence causing real violence between child viewers), there are still great differences in results, as to the extent that aggression was already more or less innate in children, and as to whether the violence was learned by the less-violent or triggered in the already-violent (as in Tannenbaum's "arousal hypothesis").

Adult Effects Arguable

Because we are protective of our children, and because it is children who watch the most television and (presumably) the most of the violent cartoons, these studies have focused on children. But Aronson points out similar effects as reported among adults. He cites the 1993 movie The Program, in which college students lay down on the center of a highway to prove their courage, and then two actual students got killed in New Jersey and Pennsylvania doing the same thing (Aronson, 1995, p.267). Aronson doesn't mention it, but the film was actually re-edited to eliminate this scene, to prevent "copy cat" casualties. To me, this suggests that unscientific "anecdotal" appearances of a relationship between media and violence are more likely to lead to real-world changes in the management of media, perhaps because the public is confused by and skeptical of scientific analyses. Anecdotal evidence is given by Jerry Mander based on informal recordings of about 2,000 conversational and written descriptions of television. The 15 phrases most frequently used, he claims are: (1) "I feel hypnotized when I watch television." (2) "Television sucks my energy." (3) "I feel like it's brainwashing me." (4) "I feel like a vegetable when I'm stuck there at the tube." (5) "Television spaces me out." (6) "Television is an addiction and I'm an addict." (7) "My kids look like zombies when they're watching." (8) "TV is destroying my mind." (9) "My kids walk around like they're in a dream because of it." (10) "Television is making people stupid." (11) "Television is turning my mind to mush." (12) "If a television is on, I just can't keep my eyes off it." (13) "I feel mesmerized by it." (14) "TV is colonizing my brain." (15) "How can I get my kids off it and back into life?" (Mander, 1978, p.258) Aronson himself waxes anecdotal with his touching story of his own son crying after having napalm explained to him during a Vietnam War telecast (Aronson, 1995, pp.247-248). But while such stories and repeated phrases themselves may motivate researchers such as Aronson, and the public at large even more so, such anecdotes are not in the context of social psychology experimentation, and cannot influence our formal conclusions. Less emotionally than his napalm story, but even less plausibly than his story about The program, he (Aronson, 1995, pp.267-268) talks about the Killeen, Texas, cafeteria mass-murder of 22 people by a crazed gunman with ticket stubs to the film The Fisher King which has a lunatic shooting and killing people in a bar. The cause and effect is not plausible here. As described in great detail in the definitive study of the "Luby's Cafeteria Killings" in Killeen, America's worst mass murder, there were actually 23 dead in five minutes, not 22 (Karpf & Karpf, 1994). This is a minor difference, but shows to me the importance of following chains of reference from secondary to primary sources. The killer's favorite TV show was the non-violent Discovery Channel show about military aircraft, Wings. More to the point, the murderer George Hennard was at least as much influenced by Steely Dan's 1976 rock & roll song "Don't Take Me Alive", marijuana, disciplinary problems in the Coast Guard, experiences with foreign prostitutes, lax attention by local police and the F.B.I. when he stalked women, and -- significantly -- an obsession with an actual mass-murder. The killer was not so much pushed over the edge by a movie as already over the edge and an obsessive collector of information about James Huberty's previous record-holder for American mass murder, in 1984, at a San Ysidro McDonald's; and about newspaper accounts of serial killer Ted Bundy (Karpf & Karpf, 1994). This incident -- like so many anecdotal examples -- is a case of the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. That is to say, just because one event (a mass killing) occurred chronologically after another event (viewing a movie), it is not valid to presume that the first event caused the second event.

Other Media -- and Multimedia

Aronson refers (Aronson, 1995, p.269) to the systematic research of David Phillips about the significant increase in the number of incidents following publicized prizefights. The more publicity, the more the increase in subsequent homicides. After white boxers lost, more white men but not black men were murdered; after black boxers lost, there were more murders of black men but not white men. But this was for publicity in general. TV as such was not to blame, but radio or newspapers as well. This brings us to the issue of which media have the greatest impact. Television may have displaced film and radio in number of per capita hours of audience per violent incident broadcast. But children today may be more influenced by video games in arcades and computer games at home. Here, they are active participants rather than vicarious spectators. Might it not be worse than watching any existing television show for a child to play Mortal Kombat and rip out a simulated opponent's heart, or slice off a video-image man's head? There is no question that such graphically violent games are popular. Mortal Kombat II has been estimated to have sales of $200-400 million (New Media, 1995). Beyond that, what of Virtual Reality, a medium in which you not only see and manipulate images, but have the 3-D experience of being inside the simulated environment? In Pasadena, you can strap on a VR helmet and chase real people through a simulated world, firing "deadly" laser guns all the while. Fitting in with our earlier discussion of Belville (Schramm, 1948), this sense of "being there" would intuitively have a greater effect on aggression than would watching any film or television show. Again, there is no conclusive data that I can find in the literature.

Cultural and Inter-cultural Considerations

There is nothing specially violent about modern American television compared to some alternatives. After all, Shakespeare's first play, Titus Andronicus featured a woman who was raped, had her hands chopped off, and had her tongue cut out to keep her from naming the rapist. She wrote his name by holding a stick in her wrists and writing in the dirt. She got revenge on the criminal by grinding up his children. This kind of violence -- 400 years old -- makes a modern "dark comedy" violent film like Pulp Fiction or Shallow Grave more evidently part of a long-term cultural context. Ivey presented a sample hypotheses that "the intensity and variety of communication forces operating in a community would demonstrate differentials according to: (a) socio-economic strata within the community; (b) nature and complexity of social organization in the community; (c) rural-urban differentials in social and cultural characteristics; (d) regional characteristics within a society; (e) value systems shaping the form and content of social action in the community" (Schramm, 1947, p.154). This is still a profound challenge to social psychology experimentation on television and violence. It is very difficult to construct adequate laboratory controls against bias due to socio-economic strata, nature and complexity of social organization, rural-urban differentials in social and cultural characteristics (to which we would today add suburban as the dominant category by population), regional characteristics, and value systems. And yet without such controls, and appropriate methodological choices, the experiments will reveal both the biases of the experimenter's favored theory and the complexities of human and cultural variation. Any successful attempt to filter out value systems, in particular, might through hidden or unacknowledged biases eliminate an essential concern about television violence and aggression in the real world of drugs, gangs, recession, and post-cold-war anxieties in the United States today. And what of inter-cultural differences? Japan is reputed to have more sex and violence on television, and in comic books, with no effort made to shield them from the view of children. And yet Japan has a far lower rate of rape and murder and crime in general than the United States. Hence we may surmise that the effect of media on aggression is, even if real, highly susceptible to cultural conditioning.

Conclusion

How and why does mass media influence people? In particular, how and why does television violence cause aggression (if indeed it does)? This paper has briefly surveyed the social psychology point of views including the "arousal theory", the "social learning" theory, the "disinhibition" theory, and the "aggression reduction" theory. We have found broad areas of agreement, and equally broad areas of disagreement, ambiguity, and confusion. In presenting an integrated, albeit brief, examination of the key questions and the difficulties in answering them scientifically, we have also touched on Aristotle's 2,500 year-old catharsis theory as modified by Freud; early predictions from media theorists of the 1940s; complexities in the definition, the innateness of, and the values of aggression; the differences between real aggression towards people and laboratory aggression against dolls; anecdotal descriptions of television and their weaknesses in explaining specific acts of aggression (including America's worst mass murder); overlapping concerns with other media such as radio, film, fax, video games, computer games, and Virtual Reality; and cultural and inter-cultural considerations. No absolute conclusion can be reached from such a survey. However, the issues are important. Not only because television violence is a reality, and aggression is a fact of life, but because an effective social psychology understanding of the relationship between television and behavior may help to not only reduce socially unacceptable aggression, but may actually enable us to increase socially desirable effects. As Stanley Cavell puts it in "the fact of television" : "I suppose it is a tall order for the repetitions and transiencies of television, the company of its talks and events, to overcome the anxiety of the intuition the medium embodies. But if I am right, this is the order it more or less already fulfills, proving again the power of familiarity, for good or ill, in human affairs; call it our adaptability. And who knows but that if the monitor picked up on better talk, monitored habitually the talk of people who actually had something to say, and if it probed for intelligible connections and for beauty among its events -- who knows but that it would alleviate our paralysis, our pride in adaptation, our addiction to a solemn destiny, sufficiently to help us allow ourselves to do something intelligent about its cause" (American Academy of Arts & Sciences, 1982, p.96).

References

American Academy of Arts & Sciences, "Print Culture and Video Culture", Daedalus, Vol. 111, No.4, Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, Cambridge, MA: Fall 1982, p.96 Aronson, E., The Social Animal, New York: W.H. Freeman and Co., 7th Edition, 1995 Bandura, A., Aggression: A social learning analysis, Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1973 Berkowitz, L., "Violence in the mass media", in Berkowitz, L., Aggression: a social psychological analysis, New York: McGraw-Hill, 1962, pp.229-255 Bryson, L. (ed.), The Communication of Ideas, Institute for Religious and Social Studies, New York: Harper & Brothers, 1948 Comstock, G. & Lindsey, G., Television and Human Behavior: The Research Horizon, Future and Present, R-1748-CF, Santa Monica, CA: Rand, June 1975 Diener, E. & DeFour, D., "Does Television Violence Enhance Program Popularity?", Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1978, Vol. 36, No. 3, 333-341 Feshbach, S., "The stimulating versus cathartic effects of a vicarious aggressive activity", Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 1961, 63, 381-385 Karpf, J. & Karpf, E., Anatomy of a Massacre, Texas: WRS Publishing, 1994 Mander, J., Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television, New York: Quill, 1978, p.158 Schramm, W. (Ed.), Communications in Modern Society: Fifteen Studies of the Mass Media, Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1948 Surgeon General's Scientific Advisory Committee on Television and Social Behavior, Television and growing up: The impact of televised violence, Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1972 Tannenbaum, P. H. & Zillman, D., "Emotional arousal in the facilitation of aggression through communication", in L. Berkowitz (ed.), Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, Vol. 8, New York: Academic Press, 1975

Family Dynamics and the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis by Jonathan Vos Post

May 14, 1995 (c) 1995 by Emerald City Publishing All rights reserved. My not be reproduced without permission. May be posted electronically provided that it is transmitted unaltered, in its entirety, and without charge. Keywords: Blaming, Descartes, Family Dynamics, Loss, Newborn, Parent, Philosophy, Psychology, Psychosocial, Psychotherapy, Sibling, Sociology, Tragedy Keynames: Gustav Mahler, Edvard Munch, Kaethe Kollwitz, Thomas De Quincey, Jack Kerouac, Bertha Pappenheim, Nietzsche, Goethe, Oscar Wilde, Lenin, Van Gogh, Heinrich Schliemann, James M. "Peter Pan" Barrie, Elvis Presley, Lenin, Hitler, Empress Catherine the Great, Ho Chi Minh, Joseph Stalin, John Lennon Introduction The Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis is an American bastion of classical Freudian practice, far from the mainstream of modern marital and family psychotherapy. Yet a selection of recent papers from The Annual of Psychoanalysis, a publication of the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis, reveals a moderation of dogmatism in the direction of modern family therapy. Four examples indicate this broadened philosophy: (1) "Child Sibling Loss: A Family Tragedy", George H. Pollock, M.D., Ph.D. (Chicago), The Annual of Psychoanalysis, a publication of the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis, Vol.14, 1986, pp.5-34; (2) "The Dreams of Descartes: Notes on the Origins of Scientific Thinking", Alan R. Dyer, M.D., Ph.D. (Durham, N.C.), The Annual of Psychoanalysis, a publication of the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis, Vol.14, 1986, pp.163-176; (3) "An Outcome Study of the Psychosocial Adaptation of Children at Risk: Protective Factors in the Severely Ill Newborn", Irving Philips, M.D. (San Francisco), The Annual of Psychoanalysis, a publication of the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis, Vol.15, 1987, pp.215-244; (4) "Blaming the Parent: Psychoanalytic Myth and Language", F. Diane Barth, M.S.W., C.S.W. (New York), The Annual of Psychoanalysis, a publication of the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis, Vol.17, 1989, pp.185-201; To be sure, these four papers are not definitive examples of the Chicago school, nor do they represent a complete and consistent philosophy, but it stands to reason that the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis would have some degree of editorial bias in the direction of their own faculty consensus, and that a significant number of dissenting publications within their own Annual would suggest a more broad and modern understanding of family dynamics and the therapeutic process than Sigmund Freud would have expounded, or that the Chicago professors would have traditionally promulgated. 1. "Child Sibling Loss: A Family Tragedy" George H. Pollock, M.D., Ph.D., was (at least in 1986) the President of the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis, and hence may be considered a representative speaker for the philosophical position of its faculty. At Perspectives on Sibling Loss, a conference celebrating the opening of the Othman-Cole Center for Sibling Loss of the Southern School, co-sponsored by the Barr-Harris Center, Institute for Psychoanalysis of Chicago, and Department of Psychiatry, Northwestern University Medical School, June 8, 1985, Dr. Pollock presented an interesting survey of this issue, itself well within the boundaries of Family Therapy1. Dr.Pollock begins by quoting a tale which was also the introduction to a book by H.S. Schiff2 which has as its conclusion: " 'The prince, no fool, had realized that some things are beyond describing. No matter how eloquent the words, their impact can fall flat when not accompanied by a similar experience.' And so it is with bereaved parents." Harriet Sarnoff Schiff was herself a bereaved parent, her son having died at the age of ten. Dr.Pollock agrees with Schiff's "perspective of the parent who has lost a child -- an unexpected crisis, as parents are supposed to die before their children -- she indeed poignantly but carefully addresses the issue of the loss of a child, and how it affects the mother, the father, and the siblings." [Pollock, pp.6-7]. In particular, childhood loss is a tragedy for each person in a family, but with meanings that can differ from individual to individuals. For example, for the mother "it can give rise to guilt, severe melancholia, a lifelong bereavement" [loc.cit.]. For the father, it may be similar or different from the mother. For both parents, there is the additional burden of having to deal with their own pain and yet comfort the living children. For siblings, the reactions can vary, from lesser impacts to lifelong significance. For grandparents, "the response can vary from great despair to quiet contemplative mourning" [loc.cit.]. Pollock's focus is on the sibling, but he stresses again and again how the surviving sibling is confronted by the reactions of the parents and other siblings as well as their own responses when the death occurs. The children can feel "unloved, alone, ignored during the bereavement period, or they may become overprotected, overinvested with care and apprehension. The children may feel pushed aside, ignored, abandoned at a crucial time" [loc.cit.]. Pollock does not, but could have, reference the classical Japanese story of the travelling poet-monk who repaid the hospitality of a family by writing them the following poem: Grandfather Dies. Father Dies. Son Dies. When the family is outraged by the insult they see in this poem, the monk explains calmly that his poem reflects the proper state of nature, and that if you put the three lines of the poem in any other order, the result is tragedy. Pollock contends that "not all children and adolescents emerge from this family tragedy with psychopathology or distorted personalities. Some become very creative and deal with their mourning for the dead siblings in a positive way" [op.cit., p.8]. He cites Gustav Mahler, Edvard Munch, Kaethe Kollwitz, Thomas De Quincey, Jack Kerouac (dead brother Gerard), Bertha Pappenheim, Nietzsche, Goethe, Oscar Wilde, Lenin, Van Gogh, Heinrich Schliemann, and (in depth) the famous Scottish writer James M. "Peter Pan" Barrie3. He does not, but might well have in a less academic context, also cited Elvis Presley, whose twin brother died at birth. Pollock also cites Solnit4 as writing that "sibling experiences are always significantly shaped by two interacting, profound dynamic forces... there is first, the nature of the mutual relationships of parent and child; and second, the child's developmental capacities and preferences that are formative in sibling relationships and experiences." Pollock also lists (I summarize below) Patterson and McCubbin's5 list of the sources of stress when there is a chronic illness in a family who have a chronically ill child: 1) Strained family relationships 2) Modifications in family activities and goals 3) The burden of increased tasks and time commitments 4) Increased financial burden 5) Need for housing adaptation 6) Social isolation 7) Medical concerns 8) Differences in school experiences 9) Grieving Pollock concludes "that children can experience various kinds of losses that include events other than death: prolonged hospitalization, divorce with split custody, abandonment, separations during war and other disaster experiences, migrations to countries resulting in family breakups" [Pollock, p.21]. In listing famous people who reacted creatively to the death of a sibling, Pollock suggests that "in the case of Lenin, I found a partial identification with his [political assassin] executed [by the Czar] brother set the adolescent on a path that had a powerful impact on the history of man" [Pollock, p.32]. He underlines this conclusion with a reference to Hitler "who lost three siblings before he was born; the death of his brother Edmund at age six, when Adolf was eleven, may have had a serious impact on his later fascination with death" [op.cit., pp.32-22]. In another paper, Pollock6 gives a list of revolutionary and utopian leaders who lost parents or siblings while young, including Empress Catherine the Great (1729-1796), who lost a lost a brother when she was thirteen and a sister when she was sixteen; Ho Chi Minh (1890-1969), whose mother died when he was ten, and lost a younger brother when he was fifteen; and Joseph Stalin (1879-1953) who survived when three siblings died, perhaps due to an alcoholic abusive father. It is a chilling thought, that creative but twisted responses to the deaths of siblings may have led to the death of tens of millions of people to the Nazis and the Soviet Union. I personally agree with the final quote by Pollock: "as John Lennon has pointed out, 'Life is what happens while we are busy making other plans.' " 2. "The Dreams of Descartes: Notes on the Origins of Scientific Thinking" Alan R. Dyer, M.D., Ph.D. claims that dreams by René Descartes (born March 31, 1596), which themselves resulted from family dynamics, led to the basis of a new philosophy, the scientific method, which fundamentally shaped the modern world itself.7 The dreams in question were on the night of November 10, 1619, and Descartes himself made the claim that they led to the scientific method. Various authors cited by Dyer have attempted to analyze the symbolism in these dreams in terms of verified biographical details of Descartes. For example, Schonberger8 has offered a Kleinian interpretation; von Franz9 has offered a Jungian interpretation; Feuer10 has offered a classical Freudian interpretation involving sexual anxieties; Hanson11 has offered a Freudian interpretation in terms of narcissistic dynamics. Freud himself12 cautioned psychoanalysts about such studies made without access to the associations of the dreamer, and noted that Descartes' dreams were of the type he called "from above," meaning that they included thoughts that were close to the dreamer's consciousness and might be had while awake. Dyer [p.163] extends Freud's warning by citing not only the lack of biographical information or even associative material, of which Descartes provided a great deal, but in trying to connect the dreams to the philosophy which Descartes claimed emerged from those dreams. Dyer holds that we should look fully at the dreams' context, including history and philosophy, to understand the anxieties and problems with which the dreamer struggled when both asleep and awake. These problems confront the modern world, and Descartes philosophy is satisfying to us because of its bold claim for certain knowledge, and yet frustrating in its impersonality. Dyer [p.164] summarizes the importance of this subject as follows: "Yet the appreciation of Descartes' genius is ambivalent, for the price of that liberation was the split of the material and spiritual worlds with the result that Man (as a person) was to be impersonally studied by the methods of understanding physical objects in space and time. Descartes' dualistic division of the world into extended things (res extensa) and thinking things (res cogitans), claiming the former for the province of science, and leaving the latter as the province of religion, has left much uncertainty about the legitimate status of attempts at knowledge of thinking things: psychoanalysis and other psychologies, social sciences, the humanities, and medicine insofar as it concerns itself with more than just the extended body." Dyer paradoxically says that "neither Descartes' dreams nor his philosophy can be fully comprehended if we employ the Cartesian outlook of detached analysis. Cartesian epistemology must itself be reexamined in the light of the more comprehensive understanding of mental processes which we now possess" [p.164]. Freud is said to have "corrected the Cartesian error" by "candidly looking at the childhood origins of primary-process thinking as an indispensable foundation on which the more rational secondary-process thinking is built." Descartes was preoccupied with the questions "How can one know?" and "How can one be certain?", which were both previously taken to be religious questions left to ecclesiastic authority, and subsequently taken to be in the domain of science. Descartes did not directly confront the massive authority of the Catholic Church. Indeed, he declared [op.cit., p.165] a kind of psychological independence from his own parents, and by extension from God: "As for my parents, from whom it appears that I derive my birth, this does not mean that it is they who made me and produced me in so far as I am a thinking thing, since all they did was to put certain dispositions into this matter in which I judge that I, that is to say my mind, which alone I take now as being myself, is enclosed..." Descartes also declared his independence from his senses, which the Scholastic world at that time held were the guides to the intellect which in turn was the basis of knowledge. He expresses his predicament, his so-called "dream problem" of having "been deceived in sleep by similar illusions" and so was determined to "close his eyes, stop his ears, and turn away his senses from their objects" and start completely anew with a method derived from consciousness itself. I can't help but see a parallel to the traumatized child protagonist of the Who's rock opera Tommy who (by witnessing his mother's sexual unfaithfulness and her being surprised by his father returning from World War II) becomes blind, deaf, and dumb; then achieves enlightenment while playing pinball; then tries to enlighten others by similarly restricting their senses. This paper is too short to list Descartes' dreams, recorded in a manuscript called the Olympica, no longer available, but which was used by his biographer Baillet13 who preserves the text of the dreams. But Dyer [p.169] stresses how Descartes' mother suffered from a lung disease, René claimed he inherited his sickly disposition from her, that his mother died in childbirth May 13, 1597 when he was just fourteen months old, and three days later her third and last child also died. As we have seen from Pollock1, the death of a sibling (and/or parent) has a powerful effect on a child, who copes in complex ways. As a sign of René Descartes coping, Dyer quotes Vrooman as commenting that Descartes wrote incorrectly that his mother "died a few days after my birth from a lung ailment caused by some sort of grief." Related to the deaths of mother and sibling, Descartes was raised by a devoted nurse, his maternal grandmother, and (from age ten) in a Jesuit school whose methods young René hated. In Dyer's words [p.169]: "Descartes' life, his philosophy, and his dreams all reveal conflicts between a desire for certainty and security and a desire for independence and solitude, between a submission to authority and a defiance of that authority (his father, his school, the Church and its traditions) and between a fascination with his emotions and a rationality devoid of emotional content. Descartes' dreams reflect elements of classical [Freudian] sexual conflict and oedipal struggle. There are often compelling suggestions of hatred of the father and of authority and the fear of retaliation, even of castration ... a sense of keen anxiety and tension; confusion and fear...." Dyer recounts how Descartes was steered away from profligacy and a predilection for gambling by his close friend, the mathematician Mersenne. Descartes follows the fourth-century Latin poet Ausonius who provided a strategy for his rebellion by "wearing the mask" of devout Christianity and confining his work to the "innocent" fields of mathematics and science. Descartes rightly believed that a direct confrontation with Church authorities would result in the destruction of either himself or them, and probably felt that his mother's and sibling's death were somehow caused by his (age fourteen months) first steps towards independence. Yet his solution becomes the twentieth century's problem. Shall we seek intellectual freedom at the expense of personal, moral, and emotional wholeness? Such liberation from dogma is at best a compromise, since the origins of scientific thought require the repudiation of infantile thinking and yet paradoxically maintaining them in the Cartesian worldview. Modern science depends upon scientific revolutions14, and yet we do not pretend that challenges to scientific ideas will result in our own demolition. Dyer [p.172] concludes that Descartes was not himself a Cartesian "because he was a human being, and no human being, except in psychosis, could maintain the denials of sensory experience and of affectionate life which Cartesianism requires." Revisionist epistemologists such as Kuhn14, Polanyi15, and Popper 16, have shown [Dyer, p.173] that "scientific knowledge does not build so much on reductionistic analysis as it does on the integration of perceptions of complex [social, historical, and psychological] realities. Polanyi stresses the rehabilitation of trust in ones' own perceptions as a fundamental step in the establishment of knowledge. Science proceeds not by a repudiation of sensory experience, but by a reliance on it." Dyer sees these contrasting approaches to knowledge in terms of the infant-mother relationship (dyadic symbiosis) which Descartes would have suddenly lost when his mother died (thus producing extraordinary self-doubt about his existence and relationship to nurturing figures) and the child-mother-father relationship (triadic social reality processing). The Cartesian philosophy, a basis for science and the modern world, is thus an incomplete attempt to describe knowledge as a solitary process of grappling with a world of which one is not a part. This way of viewing the world is a psychological defense mechanism against painful affects. How amazing, if true, that our scientific world stemmed from a troubled fourteen-month-old dealing with the loss of his mother! 3. "An Outcome Study of the Psychosocial Adaptation of Children at Risk: Protective Factors in the Severely Ill Newborn" Irving Philips17 finds many methodological faults in retroactive analysis of data reported by adults or observed by mothers, in the study of child development. He quotes Freud as having also recognized these problems. Many inferences are made about mother-infant interaction from retrospective data, but there are better sources of data in the medical study of premature infants born with serious medical and surgical problems, as for example studied at the Intensive Care Nursery of the University of California, San Francisco. Neonatology as a science has blossomed in the past two decades. Hyaline-membrane disease is successfully treated; surgical complications are corrected; a higher achiever rate for lower-birth-weight-infants has been achieved; distressed neonates are vigorously treated by isolation in incubators, perceptual stimulation reduction, intubation to achieve positive pressure oxygenation, intravenous feeding or gavage, frequent measurements and laboratory tests, transfusions, and other interventions. Many such infants are extremely deprived of normal mother-infant contact. The normal affectional bonds are not achieved at birth, and may be much delayed. The unity of the mother-infant dyad is disrupted. And yet many of these infants survive, allowing us to see if they made adequate adaptation in the face of such early privation of affectional bonds. Philips cites animal experiments, such as the famous results on the effects of isolation of the rhesus monkey18; and the studies of Ribble (1943), Spitz (1965), Spock19 (1946), Erikson (1950) and others on the importance of early mother-child care, the effects of early separation, the mother-infant dyad, the crucial first two months, and even, according to Klaus and Kennel20 the necessity that the mother and father have close contact with their infant in the first minutes and hours of life, in order for development to be optimal. Infant separation and isolation can injure language acquisition, affect mental retardation, provoke cognitive disturbances, and correlate with mental subnormality. Philips summarizes the studies of children at risk, most of which deal with those reared in families with a mentally ill (schizophrenic or depressed) parent. He cites the summary by Erlenmeyer-Kimling21 as well as the "reports of children raised in compromised backgrounds who have achieved an expected level of competence. There are reports on invulnerable children or 'superkids' ... who displayed unusual talent and creativity" such as those by Grunebaum22 and Cohler23. But he found no studies of psychosocial adaptation that follow children over time who have been seriously distressed at birth and separated from maternal care for long periods. So Philips asked the Director of the Intensive Care Nursery of the University of California, San Francisco, to select ten children, eight years of age or older, who had been separated from parental caretaking, had suffered severe and intense privation for at least two months, and had nonetheless achieved a most favorable psychosocial outcome. Most of these children had been oxygen dependent for six weeks or longer, and were hospitalized in intensive care for at least two months. All were separated from their mothers for at least six weeks, many had multiple hospitalizations, and all had multiple complications, both medical and surgical. The parents were interviewed to determine the course of the child's development, and these retrospective data were further elaborated by the child's clinic chart based on periodic visits. An appraisal was made from four perspectives: the child, parent(s), family functioning, and school. This overlaps the core concerns of Family Therapy, in my opinion. There is no room in this paper for details, nor for Philips' speculations as to Biological Factors and Psychosocial Factors that might account for the results of this important study. What matters in the context of this paper and this class is the basic result [p.225]: "There is little question that full-term delivery of a healthy infant and early contact with the maternal caregiver are preferred in human development. Yet the children who are the subject of this paper have demonstrated that the human infant can indeed survive early deprivation and achieve normal psychosocial adaptation. They experienced separation, isolation, pain, respiratory and cardiac distress, sensory deprivation, surgical manipulation, and other untoward experiences inflicted over protracted periods of time, and yet 8-14 years later, despite the adversity, they had not only survived the experience but had also achieved a psychosocial adaptation indistinguishable from that of their more favored peers. They had disastrous beginnings and favorable outcomes. Developmental theory or ethological experiments would dictate otherwise. There may be many biosocial explanations." This study has emphasized that (1) the human organism can not only tolerate the harshest privation and not only survived but become indistinguishable from more favored peers; (2) for these children, early opportunities for bonding did not occur and were long delayed, questioning the assumption that such bonding must occur early to avoid poor psychosocial adaptation; (3) The most important variable in good adaptation is the ability of the family to provide care to modify early privations and develop interactions that support development during maturation; (4) The extreme stress and trauma of these children did not result in any measurable behavioral or psychological impairment. This study seems important to me. Rather than focusing on pathology, it focuses on the greatest mystery of all: how people find health and happiness against all odds. This highly optimistic possibility should be at the core of Family Therapy. 4. "Blaming the Parent: Psychoanalytic Myth and Language" F. Diane Barth24 worked in a residential treatment center with a severely disturbed girl who both infuriated and charmed the staff with her standard response to criticism. Whenever the girl was chastised for inappropriate behavior that the staff thought the girl could control, the girl whined "I can't help it. It's the way my mother made me." In therapy, she took the same position, always blaming her mother or a hallucination as responsible for the girl's actions. It made the staff laugh when they were most annoyed, but it also encapsulated her basic difficulty with life. She had no sense of personal agency, of personal power to have an impact on her environment. Yet at the same time she saw herself as a helpless victim, exploited by others, she herself was exploiting those others so that they responded with feelings of helplessness and hostility towards her, thus perpetuating her experience of other people as hostile and potentially dangerous. Barth cites numerous psychoanalysts who regard the sense of personal agency as an important component of the sense of self, and thus of mental health. But although the girl in question was psychotic, her behavior illuminates the way many analysts and analysands alike fall into the trap of "parent-blaming." When Barth supervises candidates in analytic training, those candidates often see family dynamics in terms such as "the patient is repeating a pattern of interaction which occurred with his or her mother (or father)." When Barth asks what purpose the repetition has for the patient, many candidates (no matter how old or sophisticated) are taken by surprise. Some then explain this in terms of "the repetition compulsion, or a need for the familiar, or an attempt to master a painful experience. Even these dynamic explanations tend to be based on a belief that analysands are caught in a pattern of repeating early experiences for the purposes of mastery or defense, and that such behavior is necessary because of the damage caused by failures in the parents' ability to provide what the child needed." Yet even though these candidate psychoanalysts agree that "psychodynamics evolve from an intricate interplay between actual experience and the meaning such experience has for the individual," they still almost always imply a belief that someone -- either the analysand (classical Freudian drive-conflict theory) or the parents (many contemporary theories) -- is AT FAULT in the development of the individual's dynamics. As Schafer25 points out, this language interferes with psychoanalysis by promoting an attitude of passivity on the analysand, and a superficial understanding of psychodynamics by the analyst. I hereafter skip over the detailed examination of the literature by Barth, and the many secondary references which could be cited, and summarize the key ideas. (1) The concept of the child as a passive victim of parental behavior is contrary to the findings of current infant research. (2) Parent-blaming is one end of a continuum with intrapsychic factors at one end and environmental factors at the other. (3) Freud struggled with this conflict throughout his writings. (4) Much of the criticism directed against Freud and his followers come from Freud's final lack of adequate recognition of the impact of actual interaction with important people on the development of the human psyche. (5) Psychoanalysis has moved away from a meta-psychology of drive-structure conflict and towards one that integrated drive theory with, or abandoned it for, ego psychology, object relations, interpersonal relations, and the development of the self. (6) But this brings a risk that we leave a theory that blames the child for his neurosis and embrace a theory that blames his parents. (7) Blaming parents, like blaming instincts, is reductionist and not explanatory. (8) This mistake can slip in through the assumption that a "healthy" mother gladly and automatically meets all the child's needs, and so an adult with emotional difficulties must have had a mother who did not do so. (9) Many analysts today believe that "good-enough mothering" requires "perfect attunement" between parent and child. But the concept of "good" and "bad" internalized objects has been misunderstood by many as "good" and "bad" parents. (10) Language is the tool of analysis; analytical language must thus be cleared of undesirable consequences. (11) The belief that a perfect parent is humanly possible, is itself a fantasy. (12) The belief that nobody should have a child unless they are a perfect parent, is completely unrealistic. (13) Theory is important, but tends to reduce complexity -- sometimes too much. (14) The historical "truth" of an individual changes over time; memory is unreliable; hence a single childhood incident is less important than a general atmosphere and ongoing experience of relating and being related to. (15) The adult often understands (or misunderstands) childhood experiences from the child's perspective, and cannot capture the "actual" reality of childhood experiences. (16) Hence the adult cannot be understood simply on the basis of childhood experiences, even experiences of abuse. (17) Interpersonal experiences and subjective elaborations of these must both be understood, with the help of the analyst. (18) Most analysts consider developmental history only as a metaphor. (19) The past is constantly being constructed and reconstructed through the analytical work. (20) Different theories are useful for explaining different patients, or even for the different times in the course of one patient's analysis. (21) Different theories explain why different people react to similar experiences (i.e. abuse) in different ways. (22) Almost all abused children develop fantasies to explain the parents' behavior, and perhaps to avoid conscious awareness of parents' murderous intent. (23) But it is not enough to say "you are this way because you were abused" or "because your mother or your father drank." (24) Parent-blaming is an attitude, not a theory. (25) "Given the reality that human perfection does not exist, analytic theory needs to take into account the possibility that 'good enough' parenting is indeed good enough, and psychoanalysts need to beware of language and theory implying that only perfect is good enough. 7. Conclusion The Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis, although a bastion of classical Freudian practice, is (based on examining four particular papers) not really so far from the mainstream of modern marital and family psychotherapy. Reading these papers carefully reveals a moderation of dogmatism in the direction of modern family therapy. (1) "Child Sibling Loss: A Family Tragedy", by George H. Pollock1 showed a nuanced relationship between the development of a personality and the family and societal stresses surrounding the death of a sibling. Examples such as Lenin, Stalin, Ho Chi Minh, and Hitler suggest that Family Therapy for a handful of dysfunctional families might have prevented tens of millions of tragic deaths by war. (2) "The Dreams of Descartes: Notes on the Origins of Scientific Thinking", by Alan R. Dyer7 looks at a philosophy said to be derived from one night of dreams, shows that those dreams must be examined in a family dynamic context, and suggests that the modern scientific world partly derived from a troubled fourteen-month-old 399 years ago dealing with the loss of his mother. (3) "An Outcome Study of the Psychosocial Adaptation of Children at Risk: Protective Factors in the Severely Ill Newborn", by Irving Philips17, experimentally rejects a considerable modern literature on development and ethology. It strongly suggests that humans can not only tolerate the harshest privation and not only survive but become indistinguishable from more favored peers, despite absent or late opportunities for bonding, so long as the family provided good care and develop interactions. (4) "Blaming the Parent: Psychoanalytic Myth and Language", by F. Diane Barth24 wisely criticized the common psychoanalytical attitude that blames the parents for the child's problems. Barth suggests, in an almost Confucian way, the need to "purify the language" to avoid these errors of theory and practice. To be sure, these four papers are not definitive examples of the Chicago school -- I have not read widely enough even to define the Chicago school -- but these four papers in the key publication of the institution in question suggest a more broad and modern understanding of family dynamics and therapy than Sigmund Freud would have expounded. I found the same sort of support in two other, even more recent papers: (5) "Fatherhood and the Preference for a Younger Child", Helen R. Beiser26; and (6) "Edgar Allan Poe, James Ensor, and the Psychology of Revenge", David S. Werman27, but this paper is already twice the requested length, so I shall stop here. Freud and his followers seem weirdly naive and unrealistic compared to the wonderful range of modern Family Therapy practices, but it is clear to me that these modern perspectives have enlightened the most conservative repositories of Freudian theory. Psychopathology is still a mystery, but the greater mystery of the Dynamics of the Healthy Family and the healthy individual shed light upon even that dark abyss.

8. References

1. "Child Sibling Loss: A Family Tragedy", George H. Pollock, M.D., Ph.D. (Chicago), The Annual of Psychoanalysis, a publication of the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis, Vol.14, 1986, pp.5-34; 2. Harriet Sarnoff Schiff, The Bereaved Parent, New York: Penguin Books, 1978; 3. James M. Barrie, Margaret Ogilvy: By Her Son, London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1896; 4. A.J. Solnit, "The Sibling Crisis", The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 38:281-284, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1983, p.283; 5. J.M. Patterson & H.I. McCubbin, "Chronic Illness: Family Stress and Coping", in Stress and the Family, Vol.2: Coping With Catastrophe, ed. C.R. Figley & H.I. McCubbin, New York: Brunner/Mazel, 1983, pp.21-36; 7. "The Dreams of Descartes: Notes on the Origins of Scientific Thinking", Alan R. Dyer, M.D., Ph.D. (Durham, N.C.), The Annual of Psychoanalysis, a publication of the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis, Vol.14, 1986, pp.163-176; 8. S. Schonberger "A Dream of Descartes: Reflection on the Unconscious Determinants of the Sciences", Internat.J.Psycho-Anal., 1939, 20:43-57; 9. M.L. von Franz, "The Dream of Descartes", in Timeless Documents of the Soul, Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1968, pp.55-136; 10. L. Feuer, "The Dreams of Descartes", Amer. Imago, 1963, 20:3-26; 11. J.H. Hanson, "René Descartes and the Dreams of Reason", in The Narcissistic Condition: A Fact of Our Life and Times, New York: Human Sciences Press, 1977, pp.15-178; 12. Sigmund Freud, "Some Dreams of Descartes", Standrad Edition, 1929, 21-199-206, London: Hogarth Press, 1961; 13. A. Baillet, Vie de Monsour Descartes, Paris: Table Konde, 1946; English text available in Feuer (1963) and Dyer (1986); 14. Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1962; 15. Michael Polanyi, Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post-Critical Philosphy, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1952; 16. Karl Popper, The Logic of Scientific Discovery, New York: Basic Books, 1959; 17. "An Outcome Study of the Psychosocial Adaptation of Children at Risk: Protective Factors in the Severely Ill Newborn", Irving Philips, M.D. (San Francisco), The Annual of Psychoanalysis, a publication of the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis, Vol.15, 1987, pp.215-244; 18. M. Rutter, Qualities of Mothering: Maternal Deprivation Reassessed, New York: Aronson, 1974; 19. Benjamin Spock, The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care, New York: Duel, Sloan & Pearce, 1946; 20. M.H. Klaus & J.H. Kennell, Maternal Infant Bonding: The Impact of Early Separation or Loss on Family Development, St.Louis: C.V. Mosby, 1976; 21. L. Erlenmeyer-Kimling, "A Prospective Study of Children at Risk for Schizophrenia: Methodological Considerations and Some Preliminary Findings", in Life History Research in Psychopathology, ed. R. Wirt, G. Winokur, & M. Rolf, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 4:23-46; 22. H. Grunebaum, B. Cohler, C. Kauffman, et.al., "Children of Depressed and Schizophrenic Mothers", Child Psychiat. Hum. Dev., 1978, 8:219-228; 23. B. Cohler, H. Grunebaum, C. Kauffman, et.al., "Social Adjustment Among Schizophrenic, Depressed, and Well Mothers and Their Children", 131st Annual Meeting of the American Psychiatric Association, Atlanta, 1978; 24. "Blaming the Parent: Psychoanalytic Myth and Language", F. Diane Barth, M.S.W., C.S.W. (New York), The Annual of Psychoanalysis, a publication of the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis, Vol.17, 1989, pp.185-201; 25. R. Schafer, A New Language for Psychoanalysis, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1983; 26. "Fatherhood and the Preference for a Younger Child", Helen R. Beiser, M.D., (Chicago), The Annual of Psychoanalysis, a publication of the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis, Vol.17, 1989, pp.203-212; 27. "Edgar Allan Poe, James Ensor, and the Psychology of Revenge", David S. Werman, The Annual of Psychoanalysis, a publication of the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis, Vol.21, 1993, pp.301-314; *** The End ***

Extending Life, Enhancing Life Book Review by Jonathan Vos Post

May 14, 1995 (c) 1995 by Emerald City Publishing All rights reserved. My not be reproduced without permission. May be posted electronically provided that it is transmitted unaltered, in its entirety, and without charge. Keywords: Sociology, Aging, Gerontology, Sociocultural Introduction This book report is about Extending Life, Enhancing Life: A National Research Agenda on Aging.1 The authors (more than 150 contributed) are the Committee on a National Research Agenda on Aging, Division of Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, Institute of Medicine (operating under Congressional charter of the National Academy of Sciences). The editor is Edmund T. Lonergan, and the publisher is the National Academy Press, Washington, D.C. This book was published in 1991. Including index, it is 152 pages long. The theme follows the sub-title literally: an "agenda" is a "list of things to be done." This book, an extension of earlier studies such as Our Future Selves2 in 1978, and Toward an Independent Old Age3 in 1982. It offers a limited number of general research priorities for the coming decades. To carry out this program, the committee recommends a significant increase in the funding of approved research grants on aging, expansion of training of faculty in age-related studies, widening of the scientific infrastructure base, and additions to present centers for the study of aging. The central concept is that increased fundamental research on aging holds the most promise to improve the lives of an ever-increasing number of older Americans. It is now the task of the leaders of this country to join with an informed public, and make it happen. Outline The book has a 39-page Executive Summary on background, a National Research Agenda on Aging, Cross-cutting Issues, Recommendations for Funding, Implications for Funding Agencies, and Concluding Comments. There is then a 6-page Introduction as Chapter 1; a 10-page Chapter 2 on Basic Biomedical Research; a 14-page Chapter 3 on Clinical Research; a 16-page Chapter 4 on Behavioral and Social Sciences; a 19-page Chapter 5 on Health Services Delivery Research; a 12-page Chapter 6 on Research in Biomedical Ethics; a 16-page Chapter 7 reviewing Resources Committed to Research on Aging; and two appendices covering acknowledgments, Liaison Teams, Experts Providing Information, Directors of various Centers and various Pharmaceutical research companies, and background documents. The relationship to the subject and interests of Social Gerontology are mostly in Chapter 4, and so that is where this book report will concentrate. Behavioral and Social Sciences Chapter 4 of this book emphasizes that "recent behavioral and social research has advanced our understanding of the aging process, the health and well-being of older adults, and the experience of growing older in our society." It summarizes a review of this research as having three main conclusions: (1) Socioeconomic contexts are an important influence on aging processes; (2) Significant variability in aging exists among individuals and between social groups; (3) Skills, behaviors, and competence can be modified in old age. Since length of life has increased, the age structure of populations have dramatically changed. In combination with changes in social policy and family structure, this forces us to learn more about the nature of aging today and the likely effects on future generations. The essential goal of aging and health research must be to "compress and diminish the duration of morbidity, disability, and suffering during the extra years provided by increased life expectancy; and to enhance both productivity and the quality of life during that time." But life processes are complex, so much of this research needs to be interdisciplinary. It should also be longitudinal and cohort sequential, working within existing knowledge, methodology, and resources. For example, behavioral and social studies can help to explain the response to clinical intervention, or to the factors that access older persons' to participation in health care services. This book emphasizes traditional approaches to research in such areas, but admits that long-term payoffs from less-established but promising areas of research should not be neglected. There are three themes on how individuals age, experience aging, and respond to aging: (1) The dynamic interactions of older individuals and sociocultural contexts; (2) Differentiation among older individuals and in the aging process itself; and (3) Modifiability through interventions to improve the quality of aging. Three approaches are outlined to scientifically study sociological and behavioral factors in aging: (1) Refinement of measurement and analytic instruments; (2) Cooperation and coordination by different disciplines in large-scale investigations using carefully selected, culturally representative panels to be followed longitudinally and cohort sequentially; and (3) Application and evaluation of research findings through systematic field studies to test the appropriateness of particular intervention techniques. The Dynamic Interaction of Individuals and Sociocultural Contexts The process of aging is "highly mutable" -- that is, factors in the social and physical environment extrinsic to the individual can dramatically alter the course of aging. Social and behavioral interventions might materially improve the functioning and quality of life for older people. Successful aging has multiple determinants, and there are also multiple causes of dysfunction and disability. To study all these matters, research must be embedded in the broader sociocultural context of race, ethnicity, cultural identity, and the social environment. When we say that genetic and other biological forces affect health and behavior within specific sociocultural contexts, this is backed up by research in four areas: (1) Comparative aging in different societies, cultures, racial/ethnic groups, and other subpopulations; (2) The influences on aging of different environments (geographic, workplace, treatment); (3) The effects on behavioral and health outcomes of older persons' individual characteristics coupled with the varying opportunities and constraints of different social milieus; and (4) the brain/behavior relationship A number of references4-10 suggest four conclusions: (1) The characteristics of the setting (structural and interpersonal) affect outcome; (2) Personal characteristics (cognitive appraisal and coping) can somewhat compensate for repressive controlling environments; (3) The "fit" between personal characteristics and independence-enhancing environments predicts a beneficial health outcome; and (4) The social processes that route individuals toward beneficial milieus are as important as providing a beneficial environment in the first instance. Research Priorities Three major research priorities flow from these themes: (1) Investigation of the basic social and psychological processes of aging and the specific mechanisms underlying the interrelationships among social, psychological, and biological aging functions; (2) Research that addresses issues of population dynamics, including the question of whether morbidity is being postponed commensurate with increases in longevity; (3) Research that examines how social structures and changes in those structures affect aging. Resource Recommendations Supports for behavioral and social research on aging were estimated at $80-$100 million from the federal government in 1989 and $10-$15 million from nonfederal sources such as foundations. The committee recommends budget increases of over 100% to be phased in over a five-year period. Extra funds should be allocated to: (1) studies of social, psychological, behavioral, and biological interrelationships; (2) "at-risk" populations; (3) population dynamics; and (4) changing social structures. Reactions and Recommendations I liked this book very much, and strongly recommend it to anyone interested in the Sociology of Aging. Although some 150 people contributed to it, it does not read as if were authored by committee. The range of subjects addressed is comprehensive, yet the structure of the book and its index makes it easy to find information, and the language is very clear, even when technical terms must be used by necessity. There was nothing that I read in it which contradicted what I've learned in this class, or what I've experienced in my own family. I did sometimes feel sad that the optimistic agenda for doubling expenditures in research is unlikely in the current political environment. But as the population itself ages, and older people are often more likely to vote than younger people, the "at risk" population may eventually insist that the politicians take heed of the recommendations of the greatest experts in the field. Entirely by chance, while reading this book and preparing this report, I ran into a quote11 that suggests the personal value of gerontology: "The French chemist Eugene Chevreul was born in 1786 and died in 1889 at the age of nearly 103. No other important scientist has lived to such an age. He remained active into his nineties, when he studied what we now call gerontology (the science of old age) using himself as a subject." References 1. Extending Life, Enhancing Life: A National Research Agenda on Aging, Committee on a National Research Agenda on Aging, Division of Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, Institute of Medicine (operating under Congressional charter of the National Academy of Sciences), editor Edmund T. Lonergan, Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1991 2. Our Future Selves, National Institute on Aging, Bethesda, MD: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1978 3. Toward an Independent Old Age: A National Plan for Research on Aging, National Institute on Aging, Bethesda, MD: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1982 4. Toward an Independent Old Age: A National Plan for Research on Aging, National Institute on Aging, Bethesda, MD: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1982 5. D. Featherman & R. Lerner, "Ontogenesis and sociogenesis: Problematics for theory and research about development and socialization over the lifespan," American Sociological Review, 50: 659-676, 1985 6. G. Maddox & R. Campbell, "Scope, concepts, and methods in the study of aging", Handbook of Aging and the Social Sciences, R. Birnstock & E. Shanas, eds., New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1985 7. R.T. Campbell & A. O'Rand, "Settings and sequence: The heuristics of aging research", Emergent Theories in Aging, pp.58-82, J. Birren & V. Bengtson, eds., New York: Springer Publications, 1988 8. M.W. Riley, ed., Social Changes and the Life Course, Vols. 1 and 2, Beverly Hills, CA: Sage, 1988 9. K. Spenner, "Social stratification, work, and personality", Annual Review of Sociology, 14:69-97, 1988 10. R. Moos, Evaluating Treatment Environments: A Social Ecological Approach, New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1974 11. Isaac Asimov, Professor of Biochemistry, Boston University Medical School, Isaac Asimov's Book of Facts, New York: Fawcett/Columbine, p.477 *** The End ***

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