double bind

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An inescapable dilemma involving conflicting demands that allow no right or satisfactory response. An influential theory of the aetiology of schizophrenia was put forward by the English-born US anthropologist Gregory Bateson (1904–80) and several co-authors in an article in the journal Behavioral Science in 1956, according to which schizophrenia is caused by parenting styles that create double binds for children, as when a mother complains to her son for not giving her a kiss but recoils physically whenever the child does kiss her. This theory was enthusiastically adopted by the Scottish psychiatrist Ronald D(avid) Laing (1927–89) and others during the 1970s and 1980s, but empirical evidence has not been forthcoming in support of the theory, despite its attractiveness. See also avoidance-avoidance conflict, schizophrenogenic.

Subjects: Psychology — Linguistics.

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