The Causal Theory

The Causal Theory is a progressive and controversial theory based upon cause and effect.  It assumes that there are very few genetically driven causes for behavior for humans in general and none for individual traits. The few universal drives are for all of us. They include abilities to recognize emotions and perceive treatment; a drive to seek love, nurturing and protection; a drive to imprint and re-enact; curiosity about causation in the world, others and our selves; and a need to grow and learn inevitable lessons. How parents address these drives in our childhood determines our individualized type of thinking, our endeavors in adulthood and the nature of our society.

The Causal Theory assumes that personality and behavior, including and especially adult behavior, result from childhood experiences beginning from birth, and perhaps even before. It includes attachment theory, lessons from trauma theory, family systems theory, some behavioral and cognitive models, biopsychology and Zen. 

Dr. Snyder writes in The Manual, “The Causal Theory holds that there are two biologically driven stages in development: one of attachment and the other of separation. The rest of the stages are actually inevitable lessons from life and not inborn stages at all. Thus, the self is like a piano and its player. A piano is nothing without a pianist, and a pianist is not a pianist, really, without a piano. If you sit down to play a piano without the experience of lessons, the piano will not play beautiful music. And not even the most practiced pianist could make beautiful music on a coffee table.1

Causal Theorists don’t dismiss anything as inborn. We seek to understand what we see, and, consequently, we can see behavior more clearly than those who believe that genes create behavior, because we don’t assume anything. We can see origins of behavior even more clearly than the majority who think only 50% of behavior is gene-driven. Everything we see is meaningful to us and healable, as well. We look at all behaviors as clues which can inform us as to what has been wonderful in a person’s life and what needs to be corrected and perhaps even how to go about that task. We have been developing evidence to demonstrate that Causal Theorists see children and behavior more clearly than those who believe in the genetic causes for individual traits.

When you believe that personality is created not born, you take more responsibility as a parent. It’s like a chef who tastes his food as he prepares it to see how it’s developing.  If a parent keeps an eye on how her child is turning out she can adjust the child in time for greatness, ethics and a wonderful love of life. So, The Causal Theory informs us how to raise a Miracle Child, how to heal a traumatized child and how to correct our own childhood adaptations that no longer work for us. 

The good news is that the theory is not just practical; it is also supported by research. Recent research has both debunked previous claims that genes caused behaviors at all2 and produced new research showing once again a correlation between failed attachments3, abuse4, neglect5, modeling or imprinting via mirror neurons6 and repression7 as ingredients for personality and behavioral problems. The younger and more extreme the childhood trauma, the more extreme the long-term results.

Research that claimed to find the gene for ADHD couldn’t be replicated8, and neither have they isolated the gene for depression9, anxiety10, bipolar disorder11 or even a schizophrenia12. Instead scientists have been exposed for deceptive designs and sloppy procedure. Large amounts of careful research have demonstrated that attachment13, trauma14, and other forms of parenting and childhood experiences correlate with identifiable symptoms and behavior, including schizophrenia15

Of course, we know that some conditions are genetic. Down Syndrome is genetic. We know that Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, although not genetic, has medical and long-term consequences in the creation of the mind and body of the child. However, these are not personality or behavioral anomalies. Personality forms around interaction. Down Syndrome and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome are medical issues, not psychological ones. Yet, psychiatry has long been trying to medicalize mental illness to keep it under their domain16.  This serves a giant population of defensive parents17 and an economic power structure that includes pharmacology and the research it funds18, probably the greatest of which was the Human Genome Project19. We tend to doubt the Causal Theory, attachment theory or trauma theory will ever inspire such generous research grants.

  1. Snyder, Faye (2012). The Manual: The Definitive Book on Parenting and the Causal Theory. Los Angeles: Clifton Legacy Publishing.
  2. Joseph, Jay (2004). The Gene Illusion: Genetic Research in Psychiatry and Psychology Under the Microscope. New York: Algora Publishing.
  3. Bowlby, John (1980). Attachment and Loss, Volume III: LOSS, Sadness, and Depression. New York: Basic Books.
  4. Teicher, Martin (2002, March). "Scars That Won’t Heal: The Neurobiology of Child Abuse: Maltreatment at an early age can have enduring negative effects on a child’s brain development and function". Scientific American.
  5. Szalavitz, Maia and Perry, Bruce (2010). Born for Love: Why Empathy is Essential and Endangered. New York: Harper Collins.
  6. Rizzolatti, Giacomo and Craighero, Laila (2004). The Mirror-Neuron System. Annual Review of Neuroscience, 27:169-92.
  7. Miller, Alice (1984). Thou Shalt Not Be Aware: Society’s Betrayal of the Child. New York: Basic Books.
  8. Brelis, Mathew. The Fading Gay Gene. Boston Globe. February 7, 1999.
  9. Breggin, Peter (2001). The Anti-Depressant Fact Book: What Your Doctor Won’t Tell You About Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Celexa and Luvox. Cambridge, MA: Perseus Publishing. 
  10. van der Kolk, Bessel; McFarlane, Alexander; Weisaeth, Lars (eds.) (1996). Traumatic Stress: the Effects of Overwhelming Experience for Mind, Body & Society. New York: Guilford Press.
  11. Beck, Melinda (February 8, 2011) In Search of Alcoholism Genes. Health Journal.   HealthJournal@wsj.com
  12. Ross, Colin A. & Pam, Alvin (1995). Pseudoscience in Biological Psychiatry: Blaming the Body. New York: John Wiley & Sons. 
  13. Bowlby.
  14. Teicher.
  15. Read, John; Perry, Bruce; Moskowitz, Andrew; and Connolly, Jan. (Winter, 2001). "The Contribution of Early Traumatic Events to Schizophrenia in Some Patients: A traumatagenic Neurodevelopmental Model." Jan. Psychiatry: Interpersonal and Biological Processes, A Jouronal of the Washington School of Psychiatry, Vol 64(4), Dec 2001, 319-345. doi: 10.1521/psyc.64.4.319.18602
  16. Phelan, J.C., L. Yang and Cruz-Rojas, R. (March, 2006). "Effects of attributing mental illnesses to genetic causes on Orientations to Treatment”. Psychiatric Servicesps.psychiatryonline.org. Vol. 57, No. 3.
  17. Miller, Alice (1984). Thou Shalt Not Be Aware: Society’s Betrayal of the Child. New York: Basic Books.
  18. Breggin, Peter (1991). Toxic Psychiatry. New York: St. Martin’s Press.
  19. Lewontin, Richard (2000). It Ain’t Necessarily So: The Dream of the Human Genome and Other Illusions. New York: NYRB.