Sanity, Madness and the Family provides a series of case studies in which schizophrenia is examined from the social perspective where the authors seek to understand the family dynamics that lie behind this illness. The families of the individuals are interviewed in a variety of combinations so that the apparently meaningless behaviour and delusions of the schizophrenic are placed in a context which is meaningful and relevant to her. In this process it is possible to see how family alliances and defences are built up and protected, sometimes over generations, at the expense of individuals.The case studies examine the discrepancies between verbal statements made by family members and their non verbal communication with each other and the ill member of the family; which then lock that member into a situation that is hard to break out of. it shows how we as individuals can be unwilling to confront harmful issues.
The main weakness of the book is that all of the case studies are women. Although a follow up is not in its remit the reader is left wondering what happened to the women who participated in the studies. A fascinating read for those who wish to communicate authentically and examine the challenge to traditional psychiatry in the sixties.