A MAJESTIC ABSURDITY characterizes the classification system in psychiatry. Since there is such poor agreement among diagnosticians, the categories of classification are unreliable. And since there is little correlation between diagnosis, signs, and symptoms, the categories are of doubtful validity. Problems of classification are shunned by clinicians who confuse classification (forming classes in a collection of objects) with identification (identifying an object as a member of a class). Yet a more satisfactory taxonomy is crucial for clinical practice, and in particular for future research designed to yield dependable knowledge.
In the studies reported here the usual diagnostic confusions found in the classification of mental disorders among children were seen. Children from psychiatric institutions were referred for study. Each child had been previously studied at length, and their records contained the familiar terms "brain-damaged," "aphasic," "autistic," "mentally retarded," "schizophrenic." The most common terms