While iconic popular images celebrated family life during the 1950s and 1960s, American families were simultaneously regarded as potentially menacing sources of social disruption. The history of family therapy makes the complicated power of the family at midcentury vividly apparent. Clinicians developed a new approach to psychotherapy that claimed to locate the cause and treatment of mental illness in observable patterns of family interaction and communication rather than in individual psyches. Drawing on cybernetics, systems theory, and the social and behavioral sciences, they ambitiously aimed to cure schizophrenia and stop juvenile delinquency. With particular sensitivity to the importance of scientific observation and visual technologies such as one-way mirrors and training films in shaping the young field, The Pathological Family examines how family therapy developed against the intellectual and cultural landscape of postwar America.
As Deborah Weinstein shows, the midcentury expansion of America’s therapeutic culture and the postwar fixation on family life profoundly affected one another. Family therapists and other postwar commentators alike framed the promotion of democracy in the language of personality formation and psychological health forged in the crucible of the family. As therapists in this era shifted their clinical gaze to whole families, they nevertheless grappled in particular with the role played by mothers in the onset of their children’s aberrant behavior. Although attitudes toward family therapy have shifted during intervening generations, the relations between family and therapeutic culture remain salient today.
Introduction: The Power of the Family1. Personality Factories2. "Systems Everywhere": Schizophrenia, Cybernetics, and the Double Bind3. The Culture Concept at Work4. Observational Practices and Natural Habitats5. Visions of Family LifeEpilogueNotes
"In The Pathological Family, Deborah Weinstein traces the origins and spread of family therapy, the brainchild of clinicians and researcher-theorists particularly concerned about schizophrenia and juvenile delinquency after World War II. The story of family therapy is novel. It departed from marriage counseling, child guidance, and other practices designed to promote the emotional welfare and mental health of adults and children. This carefully researched, well-written, and insightful book does two things at once. It illuminates the little known transformation of 'the family' itself into a locus of health, illness, and intervention. And it sheds new light on the dramatic therapeutic revolutions that have been so central to U.S. cultural history and the history of science and medicine during the second half of the twentieth century."
Ellen Herman, University of Oregon, author of The Romance of American Psychology: Political Culture in the Age of Experts and Kinship by Design: A History of Adoption in the Modern United States
"The Pathological Family offers a spirited, wide-ranging, and often surprising account of how the clinicians got the American family into therapy, at once underwriting and challenging normative visions of proper family life. Deborah Weinstein's fascinating book—taking us into the laboratory and hospital ward, situating us as observers behind the one-way mirror and looking through the video camera's lens—is essential to understanding the cultural and political fortunes of the dysfunctional family under a half century of professional scrutiny."
Elizabeth Lunbeck, Nelson TyroneJr. Professor of History and Professor of PsychiatryVanderbilt University, author of The Psychiatric Persuasion: Knowledge, Gender, and Power in Modern America
"At first glanceDeborah Weinstein's study of family therapy traces a very familiar path. Mental health specialists leave the institutional treatment of severe mental illness for the more accessible and profitable needs of middle-class families. Weinsteinhowevertakes us through new and interesting territories along the way. She demonstrates both the distinctiveness of her subjects’ therapeutic approach and how that approach reflects important elements of postwar American society. Weinstein locates the genesis of family therapy in the same widespread postwar interest in systems that spurred the study of ecosystemscomputer scienceand urban planning."
Theresa E. Runstedtler, American University
Journal of American History
"Weinsten has produced an invaluable history of family therapy's professional and intellectual origins and convincingly demonstrates why it was and remains a radical change to the orthodoxies of psychoanalysis."
Rebecca L. Davis
American Historical Review
"Surprisingly, Deborah Weinstein's The Pathological Family is the first to examine the interventionsof the newly emerging field of family therapy in relation to these developmentsand as such makes a significant contribution to the scholarly literature on theintellectual and cultural history of the postwar era."
"Weinstein... convincingly documents the historical production of the notion of family post-WWII... the author makes her points through concrete examples that will resonate particularly with mental health and social science professionals but also with interested readers in general. She evokes the mutual influence of cliniciansresearchersand theorists who addressed what they saw as the role of family in the development of mental illness and delinquency. Readers will find descriptions of one-way window observationfilms of family interactionsand dynamics highlighted in family sessions. The book will be valuable to those interested in family development and social work as well as psychiatry and psychology. Summing up: Highly recommended."