One non-biological theory/explanation

A social explanation of schizophrenia

The Environmental Breeder hypothesis (AKA: Social Causation)

  • A link between low socio-economic status and schizophrenia has been well established since the 1960s.
  • Research in Denmark and the Netherlands has reawakened an interest in the importance of environmental factors in triggering schizophrenia.
  • Features of big-city life may be causally implicated (Eaton et al, 2000) in schizophrenia, i.e. being born or brought up in such areas is in itself a risk factor for the condition (Harrison et al, 2001)
  • Data from an ongoing national cohort study in Sweden (Hjern et al, 2004) show convincingly that social adversity in childhood is associated with an increased risk of developing schizophrenia.
  • Interest in environmental causes has also been reignited by the high rates of psychotic illness found among Afro-Caribbean and other black immigrants groups in the UK and abroad, (see Veling, 2008: The Dutch Study)
  • Risk factors include unemployment, poverty, social isolation, poor housing, overcrowding, lack of defensible space, high levels of crime and illicit drug use

The information in this handout was referenced from:

Cooper (2005). Immigration and schizophrenia: the social causation hypothesis revisited. The British Journal of Psychiatry 186: 361363 retrieved 29 March 2010 from


social-explanation: Another excellent presentation by Aidan Sammons

: The AO1/3 can be difficult to disentangle with regard to the social causation hypothesis; this sheet prompts you to describe the environmental factors that have been linked to schizophrenia and use a piece of linked research t illustrate the problem. The studies here are used as elaboration not as support as such and therefore can count as AO1.

Ethnic Minority Status, prejudice, perception of discrimination, ethnic identity and acculturation stress 

Urbanicity and Schizophrenia

Diathesis-Stress and Schizophrenia

Evaluating the Environmental Breeder Hypothesis

Revising social causation


All materials on this website are for the exclusive use of teachers and pupils of psychology . Any unauthorised copying or posting of material from this site is a copyright infringement and could result in legal action being taken against you.

© Amanda J Wood, 2016-2017