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Schizophrenia and Genetics: The End of an Illusion

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Length: 345 pages4 hours

Summary

We are approaching a period of crisis and reevaluation in the behavioral genetics and psychiatric genetics fields, as attempts to identify “genes for behavior,” with possible rare exceptions, have been unsuccessful. Schizophrenia is the most investigated psychiatric disorder, yet although there have been many claims of gene “association,” decades of molecular genetic studies have failed to produce a single causative gene.

In this context, psychologist Jay Joseph focuses on the methodological problems and questionable assumptions of schizophrenia family, twin, and adoption studies, placing special emphasis on the Danish-American adoption studies of the 1960s-1990s. Despite their massive flaws and biases, these studies played a key role in establishing schizophrenia as a genetically based condition. Joseph argues, however, that there is little if any scientifically acceptable evidence that disordered genes play a role in causing schizophrenia. He highlights the evidence in favor of environmental causes, and notes that the validity of the “schizophrenia” concept itself has a long history of controversy.

In this book, which brings together many of Joseph’s previous findings in one place while exploring many new areas, the main issues are approached from a refreshingly critical perspective. Joseph presents an up-to-date and thoroughly documented critical evaluation of schizophrenia genetic research. His findings have important implications for psychiatry and the social and behavioral sciences. In addition, this work is essential reading for anyone interested in the longstanding “nature-nurture debate.” Joseph concludes that the failure to discover genes for schizophrenia, psychosis, and other psychiatric conditions is not a setback but is instead a cause for celebration, as society can now part ways with genetic diversions and medical approaches, and can focus on environmental causes, social interventions, non-medical treatment approaches, and prevention.

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