The concept of disorder as a foundation for the DSM's theory-neutral nosology: Response to Follette and Houts, part 2

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Follette and Houts [Follette, W. C., Houts, A. C. (1996). Models of scientific progress and the role of theory in taxonomy development: A case study of the DSM. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 64, 1120-1132] argue that 'mental disorder' and 'function' are value concepts that offer no scientific basis for the DSM's theory-neutral nosology or for distinguishing disorders from other behavioral problems. They also claim that the DSM presupposes a biological theory of etiology, thus is not really theory-neutral. They recommend replacing the DSM by theory-laden diagnostic manuals. I argue: (1) DSM criteria do not imply a biological model of disorder, (2) 'mental disorder' and 'function' have scientific content that allows one to distinguish disorder from nondisorder, (3) the evolutionary 'harmful dysfunction' analysis of disorder [Wakefield, J. C. (1992a). The concept of mental disorder: on the boundary between biological facts and social values. American Psychologist, 47, 373-388] coherently demarcates disorder from nondisorder, (4) the proposed behaviorist alternative to the DSM illustrated by the articles in Follette's special section [Follette, W. C. (Ed.) (1996a). Special section on the development of theoretically coherent alternatives to the DSM system. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 64, 1117-1201] is incoherent because it does not distinguish disorder from nondisorder. (C) 1999 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1001-1027
Number of pages27
JournalBehaviour Research and Therapy
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 1999


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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