Jerome Kagan: Reminding us not to get complacentIn response to your insightful interview with Professor Jerome Kagan ("The ghost in the lab," October Monitor), anybody who can constructively criticize the many misadventures of psychological research ("Psychology's Ghosts") and tell us how genes, culture, time and luck make us who we are ("The Temperamental Thread") gets my attention, especially when the author is one of the world's most distinguished psychologists with a resilient nature and more than 50 years of experience.
In these recent books, Dr. Kagan elaborates on the pioneering work of Drs. Paul McHugh and Phillip Slavney in "The Perspectives of Psychiatry."
Dr. Kagan outlines four "families" of psychological disorders, which have their origins in brain disease (e.g., autism, schizophrenia); temperamental biases for anxiety and depression (e.g., phobias, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder); temperamental biases that make it difficult to regulate impulsive behavior (e.g., ADHD, conduct disorder); or distressful life encounters (e.g., grief, adjustment disorders).
One single "family" or method cannot explain all mental distress.
Lest we get too complacent about what we know about the secrets of human nature, Dr. Kagan reminds us that the DSM-IV and the V to follow soon consist of a list of ingredients for many psychological disorders with no recipes for the causes or etiology of any of the increasing number of mental maladies — our answers to what mental illness is often sound muddle-headed or simple-minded.