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Debate on Psychiatric Epidemiology

Leo Srole, PhD; Anita Kassen Fischer, MA
Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1980;37(12):1424-1426. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1980.01780250110015.
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We are grateful to the chief editor for encouraging our current exchange with Drs Weissman and Klerman. We regret, however, that their preceding rejoinder on the one hand slights several key issues posed in our preceding letter and, on the other hand, argues against "straw men" positions that they erroneously attribute to us. Space considerations force us to strictly limit this reply to our central concern about current community epidemiological surveys that rest on questionable theoretical and instrumental assumptions.

The theoretical assumption, which is repeatedly stated by our correspondents, is that the domain of functional mental illness comprehends a universe of "discrete" mental disorders. (In accepted usage, be it noted, "discrete" is defined as "constituting separate, noncontinuous entities.") This specific theory has a long history of antecedents in the general systematics of scientific classification and would not be relevant here, except that it impinges directly on the instrumental assumption to


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