Date of Award


Publication Type

Doctoral Thesis

Degree Name





Psychology, Clinical.


Porter, James,




The sociopolitical underpinnings of psychiatric theory are examined both theoretically and empirically. In the theoretical analysis, the view of mental disorder as a value-free conception is shown to be rooted in logical-positivism, an epistemology which has been strongly criticized for positing a realm of science beyond values. It is argued that psychiatric theory, live all knowledge, contains values which promote particular sociopolitical interests. Traditional mental disorder conceptions are outlined as supporting the interests of dominant sectors of society by focusing on the intra-individual concomitants of psychiatric distress and minimizing the importance of the social context in which human suffering arises. By directing attention away from adverse societal factors, such as inequality and powerlessness, these asocial models protect the sociopolitical system from criticism and reform. An empirical investigation was conducted in order to investigate the relationship between mental health clinicians' personal sociopolitical values and their endorsement of asocial theoretical formulations. Research questionnaires were mailed to 810 clinical psychologists throughout the United States. Participants were required to complete three measures of sociopolitical values, read four clinical case vignettes, assess whether the case descriptions indicated evidence of a mental disorder, and rate the extent to which each of Biological, Psychological, Interpersonal/Situational and Societal factors were relevant to the vignette subjects' problems. One hundred and thirty useable questionnaires were returned. Results indicated that the Societal factor was assigned less importance than all other mental health factors, supporting the contention that clinicians minimize socio-contextual variables in their theoretical models. Higher mental disorder ratings were somewhat associated with greater endorsement of Biological and Psychological mental health factors, providing some support for the thesis that mental disorder conceptions are asocially based. Overall the mental health framework of psychologists with differing sociopolitical values were quite similar. However, endorsement of the Societal factor was moderately associated with liberalism and the endorsement of the Psychological factor was somewhat associated with conservatism, suggesting that the more conservative practitioners employed more asocial models. Recommendations for clinical practice are outlined from a socio-cultural perspective. Source: Dissertation Abstracts International, Volume: 56-11, Section: B, page: 6411. Adviser: James Porter. Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Windsor (Canada), 1994.