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September 1971

Ambiguity for Individuation: A Critique and Reformation of Double-Bind Theory

Author Affiliations

Washington, DC
From the Family Development Section, Child Research Branch, National Institute of Mental Health, the Department of Psychiatry, George Washington University School of Medicine, and the Washington Psychoanalytic Institute, Washington, DC.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1971;25(3):232-239. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1971.01750150040006

Clinical observations suggest a link between dissociative experiences in adult patients and underexposure to ambiguous communications during certain developmental phases. Formal characteristics of ambiguous and paradoxical communications are examined in detail. A theory is proposed which connects parental fear and intolerance of ambiguity with the offspring's inability to integrate paradoxical aspects of reality. This theory is contrasted with the double-bind theory which states that an abundance of certain paradoxical communications is schizophrenogenic. The "therapeutic doublebind" is seen as a "replacement" of essential paradoxical communications which were scarce and inadequate rather than overabundant during crucial developmental phases.

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