Categories
Science

Parenting Styles, Childhood Playing Style Preferences, and Adulthood Trauma

Although Baumrind’s classification of  parenting styles has been criticized as ethnocentric and not reflecting of broader cultural values,(authoritarian practices are not associated with negative outcomes in certain contexts/populations) I’m curious to know, within a specific cultural context wherein Baumrind’s classifications could hold true, if parenting styles affect a child’s tendency to gravitate towards certain playing styles. 

Play and peer interaction play an important role in childrens’ social and emotional development.

The four types of play are:

Solitary independent play- kids actively playing by themselves.

Parallel play- a type of play in which children are playing next to one another, but not interacting.

Associative play- play that involves interaction with peers and sharing, but has no overall structure or goal.

And finally, cooperative play, which is play in which there is interaction, as well as a shared goal amongst the children.

For example, I would imagine psychological control and power assertion methods (authoritative for all intents and purposes) of parenting strategies would implant a sense of mistrust for others in the child. This may lead to the child becoming “difficult” and non-cooperative in classroom settings like in pre-school, where the children are meant to interact in the different types of play dynamics. 

I’d hypothesize that solitary and parallel play would be the highest likelihood naturally occurring playing styles for children with authoritative parents who utilize harmful psychological and power control means to discipline and raise their child. A child who doesn’t trust their caregiver surely won’t trust other people (I say people because as children, we always felt we were grown enough to do whatever we wanted, and viewed ourselves as equally as mature as our elders). I think with that in mind, children may not make the association that other children may behave towards them in a similar fashion as their parents, because the dynamic is established where we always feel as though we’re “mature” enough, making adult and child behavior (other people’s behaviors) indistinguishable. Likewise, the associated psychological effects of exposure to these parenting styles may lead the child to feel anxiety towards others because they think the behaviors of others will invoke the same negative feelings and cognitive stress as dealing with their parents invokes. This would hypothetically only hold true if the child is unable to distinguish between adult and peer behavior and perceptions. If that’s not the case, then perhaps under other circumstances, children with authoritative parents may be comfortable engaging in associative or even cooperative play with their peers, and even find solace in the social interaction as a means of establishing healthy relationships.

I’m curious to know how much deeper parenting styles affect the psychological development (social and cognitive) of children, even throughout their lives. It’s apparent that certain parenting styles would lead to attachment issues and traumatic perception of experiences (people are diagnosed with PTSD all the time for childhood trauma associated with caregiver abuse). Perhaps further study into these early associations between children’s preferred style of play and caregiver parenting styles can shed some light on how to deal with adulthood trauma, attachment issues, self-esteem and confidence issues, and anxiety issues. 

Categories
Economics Science

On Social Epidemiology, Healthcare Disparities, and Privitized Medicine

Social epidemiology is the study of causes and distribution of disease. Social epidemiology can show how social problems are connected to the health of different populations. These studies show that health problems of high-income nations differ greatly compared to those of low-income nations. Some diseases are universal, but others, like obesity, heart disease, and diabetes, are much more common in high-income countries and are a direct result of a sedentary lifestyle and poor diet.

Some theorists differentiate among three types of countries: core nations, semi-peripheral nations, and peripheral nations. Core nations are those that we think of as highly industrialized, semi-peripheral nations are those that are often called developing nations, and peripheral nations are those that are relatively underdeveloped.  While the biggest issue in the U.S. healthcare system is affordable access to healthcare services, other core countries have different issues, and semi-peripheral and peripheral nations face a host of additional concerns.

Health disparities based on gender include how women are affected adversely both by unequal access to, and institutionalized sexism in, the healthcare industry. Women experienced a decline in their ability to see needed specialists between 2001 and 2008, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Feminist sociologist Patricia Hill Collins developed intersection theory, which suggests that we cannot separate the effects of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, and other attributes. Further information derived from the Kaiser study found that women categorized as low income were more likely to express concerns about healthcare quality.

Many critics point to the medicalization (the process by which previously normal aspects of life are redefined as deviant and needing medical attention to remedy) of women’s issues as an example of institutionalized sexism. Historically and contemporarily, many aspects of women’s lives have been medicalized, including menstruation, PMS, pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause.

The concepts of socioeconomic status and health overlap in discussions of health with race and ethnicity, since the two are intertwined in the United States. Marilyn Winkleby and her research associates stated that “one of the strongest and most consistent predictors of a person’s morbidity (the incidence of disease) and mortality experience is that person’s socioeconomic status.” This finding persists across all diseases with few exceptions, continues throughout their lifespan, and extends across numerous risk factors of disease.

Research suggests that education also plays an important role in the socioeconomic status picture, not just economics. Some experts note that many behavior-influenced diseases like lung cancer, coronary artery disease, and AIDS initially were widespread across socioeconomic groups, however, once information linking habits to diseases was disseminated, these diseases decreased in high socioeconomic groups and increased in low socioeconomic groups, This shows the importance of education initiatives regarding disease, as well as possible inequalities in how these initiatives effectively reach different socioeconomic groups.

When looking at the social epidemiology of the United States, it’s hard to miss the disparities among races and ethnicities. In 2008, the average life expectancy for white males was approximately five years longer than for black males. An even stronger disparity was found in 2007: in infant mortality, which is the number of deaths in a given time or place, the rate for black people was nearly twice that of white people. Black Americans also have a higher incidence of several other diseases and causes of mortality.

Scoial Epidemiology of Mental Health

The treatment received by those defined as mentally ill or disabled varies greatly from country to country. People with mental disorders (a condition that makes it more difficult to cope with everyday life) and people with mental illness (a severe, lasting mental disorder that requires long-term treatment) experience a wide range of effects. According to the National Institute on Mental Health, the most common mental disorders in the United States are anxiety disorders. The second most common mental disorders are mood disorders; major mood disorders are depression, bipolar disorder, and dysthymic disorder. Another fairly commonly diagnosed mental disorder is Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), which statistics suggest affects 9 percent of children and 8 percent of adults on a lifetime basis.

Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) have gained a lot of attention in recent years. The term ASD encompasses a group of developmental brain disorders that are characterized by “deficits in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication, and engagement in repetitive behaviors or interests.” The National Institute of Mental Health distinguishes between serious mental illness and other disorders. The key feature of serious mental illness is that it results in “serious functional impairment, which substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities. Thus, the characterization of “serious” refers to the effect of the illness (functional impairment), not the illness itself.

Disability refers to a reduction in one’s ability to perform everyday tasks. The World Health Organization makes a distinction between the various terms used to describe handicaps that’s important to the sociological perspective. They use the term impairment to describe the physical limitations, while reserving the term disability to refer to the social limitation. Before the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, people in the United States with disabilities were often excluded from opportunities and social institutions many of us take for granted. This occurred through employment and other kinds of discrimination but also through casual acceptance by most people in a world designed for the convenience of the able-bodied. Ramps on sidewalks, Braille instructions, and more accessible door levers are all accommodations to help people with disabilities. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, people with a disability had a higher rate of unemployment than people without a disability in 2010.

Healthcare Systems and Access to Care

U.S. healthcare coverage can broadly be divided into two main categories: public healthcare (government-funded) and private healthcare (privately funded). The two main publicly funded healthcare programs are Medicare, which provides health services to people over sixty-five years old as well as people who meet other standards for disability, and Medicaid, which provides services to people with very low incomes who meet other eligibility requirements. The United States already has a significant problem with lack of healthcare coverage for many individuals. The U.S. Census Current Population Survey of 2013 showed that 18 percent of people in the United States had no health insurance at all. Skyrocketing healthcare costs are part of the issue. Many people cannot afford private health insurance, but their income level is not low enough to meet eligibility standards for government supported insurance. Furthermore, even for those who are eligible for Medicaid, the program is less than perfect. Many physicians refuse to accept Medicaid patients, citing low payments and extensive paperwork.

Many people in the United States are fond of saying that this country has the best healthcare in the world, and while it is true that the United States has a higher quality of care available than many peripheral or semi-peripheral nations, it is not necessarily the “best in the world.” Most peripheral or semi-peripheral and majority of developed countries rely on socialized medicine. Under a socialized medicine system, the government owns and runs the system. It employs the doctors, nurses, and other staff, and it owns and runs the hospitals. Germany, Singapore, and Canada all have universal healthcare. Universal healthcare is simply a system that guarantees healthcare coverage for everybody, as opposed to socialized medicine. People often look to Canada’s universal healthcare system, Medicare, as a model for the system. In Canada, healthcare is publicly funded and is administered by the separate provincial and territorial governments. However, the care itself comes from private providers. This is the main difference between universal healthcare and socialized medicine. Perhaps with recent progressive advances in establishing a Medicare For All program in the United States would aid in minimizing disparities in our healthcare systems. As of now, our current system has failed us, as many Americans lose their lives every year to preventable illness or disease simply due to lack of access to healthcare resources.

Categories
Science

On the Psychology of Women

In a previous blog, titled “On Androcentrism in Psychology Research,” I briefly touched on alpha bias in the discipline of psychology and some of the issues it poses for researchers, as well as laypeople. In this article, I’ll be further articulating theories of sexism and patriarchy, as well as some of the ways we can see these concepts manifest as gender disparities in our mental health institutions.

Before getting into sexism in theory and in practice, I’d like to briefly explain the concept of gene/environment-interaction. This will be important later for understanding historical androcentrism, as well as contemporary sexism.

As early as 1958, Cooper and Zubeck bred rats to be “maze dull” or “maze bright” and raised these rats in enriched and impoverished environments. (Cooper, 1958) The purpose of Cooper and Zubecks’ study was to examine the potential genetic x environmental interaction, and to explore the relationship between genetics and environment, rather than perpetuate the historical notion that genetics and the environment are two distinctly separate influences on behavior and cognition. Their research concluded with “dull rats” performing exceptionally well in enriched environments, and did not differ significantly from “bright rats” in performance or cognitive ability. 

As I learned about this research, I thought again about sociobiology theory of development and gender differences. Sociobiology theory and evolutionary psychology state that gender differences in psychology are associated with and linked to sex differences and socialized gender roles based on these differences. Sociobiology and evolutionary theories of gender differences are androcentric in nature- but I believe they can be constitutionist with perspective

Sociobiology theory of gender differences can be constitutionist (the notion that gender is a social construct) rather than essentialist (the notion that gender differences are rooted in biology) if you consider that maladaptive behaviors (such as those that politically and economically cripple women and gender non-conforming individuals) have over time become resocialized as undesirable in a reproductive partner. I believe with further progress in recognizing that gender cannot exist in a cultural vacuum through psychological research, we can continue to work towards equal opportunity and equity in our social institutions. 

Cooper and Zubecks’ research shed some more light on how neurobiology isn’t necessarily indicative of cognitive function when environmental influence is accounted for. This research reminded me about sociobiology theory and evolutionary psychology theory of gender differences, and how the argument is commonly made that men and women have different cognitive abilities- an argument that fails to carry its own weight with this research in mind. This argument is commonly cited by proponents of viewpoints that are typically androcentric in nature, which brings us to sexism in theory.

Sexism in theory:

In “Lectures on the psychology of women,” Sandra Bem discusses the historical and contemporary instances of androcentrism and institutionalized sexism in the discipline of psychology. (Bem, 2008) Some examples of what Bem discusses regarding historical and contemporary instances of androcentrism and institutionalized sexism would be the notion that women are less adept than men at certain cognitive abilities- and that these differences in cognitive ability warrant the inequalities women face in institutions such as the workforce. I think socialized, internalized sexism in the hiring process (both overtly and subtly by men, and by others who don’t understand how their socialized and internalized sexism manifests in their belief systems) is an example of how gender differences (rooted in androcentric research) again, do not exist within a cultural vacuum. In some societies, women may appear to be more adept than men at certain tasks, such as “parenting” or “babysitting” because of their “differences in cognition” through characteristics like compassion, which are measured differently in different cultures.

I also see socialization of these gender roles and the way they manifest as benevolent sexism in these concepts. We reward women who want to “perform housewife duties” by giving them jobs that don’t pay well, but that reinforce their gender roles. Or, we give them jobs that pay well, just not the same as they pay men. Then we say “well no that’s not the case, women just take lower paying jobs overall than men do” well, even if that is the case, that’s because the jobs they’re offered by other men, accepted in, and perceived favorably in when they pursue (perception of qualifications, assessment for promotions, etc) are the low paying jobs, or are jobs that have been institutionally crippled by denying access to unionization, etc.. I could really go in on this (the economic acrobatics of sexism) but there will be a place for that discussion in a future post.

I think Johnson’s perspective on patriarchy was exceptional in that it provided some context to the questions I’ve been asking myself since forever- what can I do, a cisgender, heterosexual male, to combat these institutions that affect women and gender non-conforming or gender-fluid individuals? (Johnson, 2004) This is important to me because these individuals suffer greatly psychologically from socialized gender roles. I’ve learned that one way I can actively combat these institutions is to utilize my platform to shed light to these concepts, in addition to amplifying the voices of women who suffer from these institutions.

Sexism in practice:

In the text, as described by West, the images of the Mammy, the Jezebel, and the Sapphire are grotesquely racist representations of black women in American society, and serve to socialize and internalize a sense of racism in our social institutions. (Chrisler, 2004) Specifically, an example of social imaging of the Mammy, as black women as asexual servants, would be the appearance of author and psychiatrist John Gray on the Oprah Winfrey show, where he profiled her as “somebody who couldn’t raise her own children because she was raising everybody else’s,” and “America’s Mommy.” This is an example of underlying racism which is internalized in our culture to be acceptable. 

As somebody who isn’t a black American, a similar example of representation of the Mammy, Jezebel, or Sapphire didn’t come to mind immediately. This is because I’m privileged in that as a non-black American, I’m not subjected to the same socialized and internalized racism that black Americans, particularly black women, and black transwomen, experience daily. I’m privileged in that my ignorance is due to it not affecting me. I’ll make it a point to find an article that discusses this topic further, written by a black American, that I can learn more from about how I can recognize these racist symbols to speak out against them. 

I believe the impact these images have on self-esteem and mental health of black Americans is two-pronged: 

1. The internalization of these symbols affects black Americans by: convincing them from a young age that portraying black Americans in generalized, racially prejudiced and sexist images is acceptable, while doing it to white people is not (not because one is outlawed and the other not, but rather because it is the case that in one circumstance, racial profiling and images are culturally accepted- which is apparent in the frequency and emphasis and prevalence of images that portray black Americans, and not images that portray non-black Americans in this manner).

2. The socialization and internalization of these images can lead to identity issues, issues with self-esteem, depression, and suicide. It is not the case that this kind of racism affects every black American the same way- but certainly I can imagine the statistics for disparities in diagnostic rates of specific psychiatric conditions. 

A form of sexism I’ve experienced in my personal life would be in the way I’ve personally witnessed, within the discipline of medicine, how women are perceived as less qualified as men. The “hi, when will the doctor be in?” or “wow, YOU’RE the doctor?” are examples of internalized sexism. Why do we immediately assume that, because the medical practitioner is a woman, she is not in a leadership position such as the practice lead or the primary investigator of the case?

I’ve learned how to navigate the history of patriarchy in our institutions in order to understand how I can assimilate my identities as a Muslim with my political identities- this has helped me to be able to discuss these institutions with a perspective that other Muslims may be able to identify with, in order to actively shift the dialog away from extreme traditionalism and fundamentalism in response to American liberalism. It is my belief that social liberalism and traditionalism in Islam are two apples from the same tree. I can go into more detail, but it would require a lot of background information and nuance that would shift the focus of this discussion away from the struggle of black Americans and black women (and women in general). 

Under the circumstances of my witnessing sexism manifested, I was young and believed my attending physicians when they (men) would tell me that my symptoms were psychosomatic- my cardiologist now is a woman of color, and I’ve never experienced better quality care and overall concern for my health from another person before. She has grit, brilliance, and a knack for being able to connect symptoms that I don’t even recognize as symptoms. Perhaps she understands the medical gaslighting I went through growing up (which I discuss further here) and works especially hard to make me feel understood, because as a woman of color, she experiences gaslighting on a daily basis in America. 

I’m unsure whether I’m qualified to state if one form of sexism is more harmful or dangerous than the other (with regards to hostile or benevolent sexism), due to their widely-misunderstood far-reaching effects on the individual and on society as a whole. I don’t think there is a debate, however, on whether they’re harmful to begin with. It’s clear as day how sexism manifests in ways that cripple our women, especially black Americans and women of color, economically, socially, and politically. 

I believe in the premise that all struggle is a manifestation of class struggle. I believe it’s important to acknowledge the intersectionality of socioeconomic class and issues of racism and sexism. I also identify more with Malcom X’s departure from the Nation of Islam to support the Black Nationalist movement than I do MLK’s peaceful demonstration- this is because I recognize that at some point, ideological acrobatics fail to enact real social change, and instead of focusing on identity and what separates us, we should emphasize our common ground and never forget that the source of many of the issues we face in our society is rampant oligarchy and political manipulation and disenfranchisement. Hopefully that provides some context to my perspectives on sexism, racism, and the intersectionality of these concepts with politics. These are very complex issues, but their solutions are clear as day- the first step to enacting real social change is to overcome the cognitive dissonance we face when we realize the reality we’ve enjoyed our whole lives is not the same reality that others live in. 

Gender differences in Mental Health:

To begin: the facts on mental health disparities in our society.

Women are much more frequently diagnosed with mental disorders than men. Women are prescribed psychotropic drugs 2x as often as men, and doctors are more likely to think women’s physical illnesses have psychological components.

With regards to major diagnoses applied to women:

Depression: 16% of people in the US are diagnosed with depression over the course of their lifetime. Women are 1.5-3x more likely than men to be diagnosed with depression and it’s the leading cause of disability among women around the world.

Eating disorders: with regards to anorexia, one out of every one hundred women are diagnosed with anorexia, and 90% of all cases are female. With regards to bulimia, 1.1 to 4.2% of women are diagnosed with bulimia, 90% of cases are female, and it occurs 5x more frequently than anorexia.

Anxiety disorders: 2x as many women suffer from specific phobias than men. Panic disorders affect 2.4 million adult Americans, and they’re 2x as prevalent in women. Generalized Anxiety Disorder affects 4 million Americans, and twice as many women than men. Women are more likely than men to be diagnosed with PTSD, and 12% of women meet the criteria for diagnosis.

With regards to suicide, although men succeed 4x as often as women at suicide attempts, women attempt suicide twice as often as men, and it’s the second leading cause of injurious death among women. Six thousand women annually, aged fifteen and older, commit suicide. In addition to this, depression is linked to suicide stronger in women, while alcohol and substance abuse is linked to suicide more so in men. Self mutilation is also twice as common in women, and these individuals represent 4-13% of the nonclinical population. Women are also more likely to be diagnosed with histrionic personality disorder, dependent personality disorder, and 75% of all borderline personality disorder diagnoses are women.

Some contemporary issues in diagnosis: Labels put focus on the individual rather than on social context, and gender stereotypes shape what is considered normal behavior. Due to reporting bias, under the same levels of physiological stress, women report more anxiety. Men may also deal with anxious feelings by suppressing with drugs/alcohol (versus expressing them directly).

Women are prescribed psychotropic drugs 2x as often as men (doctors are more likely to think women’s physical illness has a psychological component, and commercial ads are aimed at women more than men). In addition to this, men don’t seek help as often as women, women report more emotional symptoms, and substance abuse masks symptoms in men.

Some alternative perspectives on why these disparities exist in our mental health include the following theories:

Sex-role theory predicts that women encounter more stressors in their daily lives that can promote depression.

Learned helplessness theory states that female gender roles have low status and power, which leads to silencing of voices, and suppression of anger.

Rumination theory says the way women are reared fosters excessive worry, which makes them more likely to blame themselves and feel helpless, as well as more likely to focus on causes and consequences (men are more likely to escape).

Over-eye-theory purports the inner voice that judges women against what is “good” and “right” condemns their authentic self, leading to poor mental health outcomes.

Attribution styles- women are more likely to attribute success to luck and failures to inabilities.

Interpersonal styles- many women become overly involved in the problems of their frineds, partners, etc, which can contribute to neglecting their own needs and feeling responsible for making sure relationships go well.

Sexual and physical assault- women are more likely to be victims of traumas. This accounts for as much as 35% of sex differences in adult depression.

Economic inequality- the feminization of poverty, lower salaries, double shifts, and single parent headed households leads to poor outcomes. Poverty is one of the single most consistent correlates of depression, and women and children comprise nearly 75% of US residents living in poverty.

In Denmark’s analysis, they provide a background on historical diagnosis and treatment of mental illness in women, as well as some ideas as to why women are diagnosed more frequently than men. Denmark states, in the section titled “The Double Standard of Labeling and Diagnosis,” that “applying labels to a diagnosis can be inherently problematic. (Denmark, 2016) Labels have the effect of putting the spotlight on the individual with the condition rather than on the social context that may have given rise to the disorder. Denmark goes on to explain how labeling groups individuals into broader categories, which ends up exacerbating their similarities and obscuring the unique aspects of their personalities. Since women are already subject to more stigmatization than men, and many labels carry a stigma, that means that women diagnosed with mental disorders are also the targets of discrimination. An additional issue with regards to labeling would be the fact that there’s significant gender differences in the diagnosis of some mental disorders, and that gender stereotypes influence what is determined to be “normal behavior” for men and women. Personality traits such as rationality and independence are equated with mental health and are usually used to describe men- meanwhile, characteristics such as being emotional, conforming, or submissive, are considered pathological, which is an issue because these characteristics are more commonly found in women.

Reporting bias also plays a role in the topic of mental health and gender differences. For largely understood reasons, male social roles dictate that they’re supposed to be “stronger” which leads to less self-reporting on their behalf. In addition, men are less likely to seek treatment, leading women to have higher rates of diagnoses than men. Denmark also points out that, through social role theory, we understand that due to exposure to poverty and violence, and double duty in the workplace and at home, women experience higher levels of mental distress. Women’s overall lower social and economic statuses, in conjunction with other factors, lead to emotional and cognitive strain in women. 

Reporting bias seemed to be the most accurate perspective to me- until I realized that I was looking at it from an androcentric viewpoint. Initially, I thought “well, that makes sense, because if everybody’s cognitive and emotional distress could be measured objectively, perhaps the gender differences would be severely less emphasized.” However, social role theory more closely aligns with my constitutionist beliefs regarding gender. Social role theory takes into account the specific experiences of individuals, and accounts for the added stresses resulting from biases and discrimination against demographics such as lesbian and ethnic minority women.

I think one thing Denmark et. al are missing are how gender differences in psychology begin with the gene x environment interaction and how these concepts intersect. Social role theory incorporates what we understand from developmental psychology with our comprehension of gender differences and androcentrism in our research and institutions. These concepts are relevant because developmental psychology tells us that the environment largely shapes gene expression, and a “resource poor” environment would lead to issues such as poor resilience, or the development of poor self-image over time versus an individual in a “resource rich” environment with the same genetic make-up. Hopefully my understanding of these concepts makes sense. 

In Dana Jack’s essay, she explains how diagnostic criteria for mental disorders such as depression are rooted in self-evaluation, and that the moral language used by women may contribute to higher rates of diagnosis. (Jack, 1991) Jack explains that, regardless of the theoretical perspective you view gender differences through, observers find “a female morality attuned to relationships and affection, and a male morality based on abstract principles expressed in laws and rules.” Jack also argues that despite longstanding observations between male and female ethical orientations (Gilligan explained that women are more orientated towards relationships and interdependence), and the clear connection between self-evaluation and diagnosis of depression, there is no systemic analysis of the morality in depressed women’s dialog. Because of this and other cultural factors, Jack states that it’s imperative to research women’s experience of depression through their moral language. 

I do believe many contemporary issues in gender disparities in mental health can be attributed to social factors such as perceived experienced harassment. The normalization and internalization of sexism can lead to self-image that, even when effectively communicated, doesn’t admonish women of their impact. Time and time again, I’m reminded of the intersectionality of environment, genes, culture, and perception, with regards to gender differences in psychology and our institutions.

Sources:

Bem, S. L. (2008). Transforming the debate on sexual inequality: From biological difference to institutionalized androcentrism. In J. C. Chrisler, C. Golden, & P. D. Rozee (Eds.), Lectures on the psychology of women (p. 3–15). McGraw-Hill.

Champagne, F. A., & Mashoodh, R. (2009). Genes in context: Gene–environment interplay and the origins of individual differences in behavior. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 18, 127-131.

Chrisler, J. C., Golden, C., & Rozee, P. D. (2004). Lectures on the psychology of women. Boston: McGraw-Hill.

Cooper, R. M., & Zubek, J. P. (1958). Effects of enriched and restricted early environments on the learning ability of bright and dull rats. Canadian Journal of Psychology/Revue canadienne de psychologie12(3), 159.

Denmark, F., Rabinowitz, V. C., & Sechzer, J. A. (2016). Engendering psychology: Women and gender revisited. Psychology Press.

Jack, D. C. (1991). Silencing the self: Women and depression. Harvard University Press.

Johnson, A. G. (2004). Patriarchy, the system. Women’s lives: Multicultural perspectives, 25-32.

Lewis, J. A. (2018). From modern sexism to gender microaggressions: Understanding contemporary forms of sexism and their influence on diverse women. In C. B. Travis, J. W. White, A. Rutherford, W. S. Williams, S. L. Cook, & K. F. Wyche (Eds.), APA handbooks in psychology®. APA handbook of the psychology of women: History, theory, and battlegrounds (p. 381–397). American Psychological Association. https://doi.org/10.1037/0000059-019

Categories
Science

Who was Sigmund Freud? The Basics of Psychoanalytic Theory

Developer of psychoanalysis and commonly referred to as the founder of modern psychology, Sigmund Freud was born in the Czech Republic in 1856. His experience with psychology began when he was introduced to a physiology professor by the name of Ernst von Brucke. With Ernst’s help, Freud was given a grant study with researchers and psychiatrists who were interested in hypnosis and hysteria. During this time, Freud developed an addiction to cocaine, which he kept for the rest of his life. His narcotics addiction may have influenced his interest in the mind, either physically or by intriguing him through his own psychological experience.

Once Freud graduated from Vienna University in 1881, he and his wife, Martha Bernay, would go on to establish a neuropsychiatry practice, which he would eventually abandon. Freud was then appointed Professor of Neuropathology at Vienna University in 1902, where in 1906, him and several other men including Carl Jung and Alfred Adler joined to form the Psychoanalytic Society, which would eventually fail due to political issues. Afterwards, in 1909, Freud was invited to give his first international presentation of his theories in Stanley Hall, Massachusetts at Clark University. In 1933, Nazis publicly burnt many of Freud’s books, and in 1938 when the Nazis annexed Austria, Freud left Vienna for London. Freud still maintained his position at Vienna University until a year before his death, in 1938. Freud died of jaw cancer in 1939 after over 30 operations. His passion led him to some major (controversial) discoveries into how the mind works.

Freud’s most controversial work revolved around his desire to investigate psychosexual tendencies. He lived in a sexually repressive Victorian society in which the repression often led to neurotic illnesses. Freud used the term sexual broadly, applying to mostly anything that causes satisfaction or stimulation. Freud believed that throughout the stages of childhood development, people advance through different sexual desires. He suggested that if these desires aren’t satisfied in the developmental phase, it would lead to personality issues as an adult. 

Freud’s research into the human mind and behavior began with his revolutionary hypothesis of Bertha Pappenheim’s condition; Bertha, his patient under the advisement of Josef Breuer, exhibited symptoms of hysteria. She was successfully treated by recalling forgotten memories of traumatic events in her past. This is the case that cultured Freud’s interest in investigating the human mind.

Freud proposed that physical symptoms often surface due to deeply repressed internal conflicts. Essentially, he proposed that many of our physical illnesses are rooted in psychological issues. Freud thereafter proposed that there are three levels to the human mind, and went on to explain that the conscious mind (what we’re constantly aware of) is only the tip of the iceberg, whereas the unconscious mind is home to all of our primitive wishes and impulses. Freud proposed that the unconscious mind represses extremely painful or frightening information or experiences, where the root of many illnesses would arise. This was the beginning of Freud’s insight into the mind. 

Once Freud established his topographical analysis of the unconscious mind, he delved deeper into the psyche and eventually developed a more structural model on the entities that comprised the id, ego, and superego. The id is the most primitive psychological body of the mind; it’s inherently the biological manifestation of basic human survival instincts. The ego is the psychological body that attempts to satisfy the needs of the id by compromising postponing satisfaction to comply with social norms. The superego is the third body, which controls the id’s impulses and persuades the ego to satisfy the id’s needs in a moral way, striving for perfection. The ego is in a constant struggle between the id and the superego, wanting to fulfill needs but also needing to postpone or alter the needs to meet moral standards or societal standards. To avoid unpleasant feelings such as anxiety or guilt, our ego employs different defense mechanisms. Freud separated the id into human survival instinct, and human death instinct.

The ego is the mind’s attempt to satisfy the id’s needs in a socially acceptable way, operating in both the conscious and subconscious as opposed to the id which is entirely subconscious based. The superego ensures that moral standards are followed. When the superego and the id are in conflict, the ego utilizes suppression mechanisms to resolve the conflict. Some of the mechanisms that Freud described are repression, denial, projection, displacement, regression, and sublimation. Freud’s hypothesis of the human psyche pioneered modern insight into human behavior. 

The first defense mechanism discussed by Freud, and one of the most important, is repression. Repression is used to avoid making disturbing or threatening thoughts conscious. The issue with repression is that it’s ineffective in the long term; pushing memories or unpleasant thoughts into the unconscious often has a trailing conscious influence on thoughts and feelings, which manifests itself in the person’s social interactions.

Another Freudian defense mechanism is displacement. Displacement describes the behavior in which unpleasant feelings are expelled unhealthily through aggressive behaviors such as domestic abuse or violence. I don’t believe any example of displacement could be productive, and any that I can think of would fall into the category of the next type of defense mechanism, sublimation. 

Sublimation is displacement through constructive, rather than destructive, behavior. Discussing unpleasant memories tends to help alleviate the undesirable feelings that accompany them. Narrating the memories that we typically repress acts as a coping mechanism. I enjoy tackling issues that trouble me on my laptop, maybe because through writing as a sublimative coping mechanism, I can reread what I’ve written and feel good about writing it. If sublimative behavior was encouraged more in society and taught to young children in elementary schools (or maybe in high schools, where it’s definitely needed), we might see a healthy change in behavioral trends across the board. 

Freud’s work on the psyche was cut short with his death, but his daughter proved successful in continuing his legacy with her further publications into the defense mechanisms of the ego. Understanding the basics of psychology could prove to be helpful to social problems such as domestic abuse and violence; if everybody understood the basic underlying psychological systems- something you could learn with minimal time devoted- they might be less inclined to destructive behavior such as through displacement, and more conscious about their actions and feelings. 

Although Freud is often called the pioneer of modern psychology, his work wasn’t entirely scientific or valid. He based much of his research off of case studies involving Vienna women and only worked with a single child, so it’s largely a stretch to say his research was groundbreaking. What he did succeed at though, is introducing the idea that the unconscious exists and dictates much of our behaviors in childhood as well as throughout adulthood, and that mental illnesses may arise from mistreatment in childhood, etc. To say that Freud’s work was necessary to kick start psychological research would be correct, but his work was highly controversial and unscientific in its nature.

Sources:

Sigmund Freud (1856-1939). (2014, January 1). Retrieved May 27, 2020, from http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/freud_sigmund.shtml

McLeod, S. A. (2013). Retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/Sigmund-Freud.html

Sigmund Freud. (2014). The Biography.com website. Retrieved May 27, 2020, from http://www.biography.com/people/sigmund-freud-9302400.