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August 5, 1961

The Split-Level Trap

JAMA. 1961;177(5):352. doi:10.1001/jama.1961.03040310070030

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This volume attempts to answer the question, "Are we commuting to disaster?" The Gordons, a husband-and-wife team, performed the basic research, and Gunther wrote up their observations. Factors which result in psychopathology in a typical section of American suburbia are described. These variables which are peculiar to suburbs result in tremendous emotional stresses. It would appear that the suburbs are peopled with status seekers who are "hell bent on accumulating material possessions." This fierce desire to move "vertically" has created a Frankenstein monster, the split-level neurosis. Problems of young wives, child-bearing, young husbands, marriage and divorce, children and adolescents, the middle aged, and oldsters all are given a cursory analysis.

It is difficult to be critical of a volume which is so colorfully written. Ten case studies are presented succinctly, cogently, and dramatically. I would question, however, the very basic interpretation of this volume—that stress disorders are more prevalent in

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