Paul Lutus, "Psychology's Fashion Pendulum"
Modern-day psychology plays a central role in cultivating professional victims. Because psychology is not a science (for reasons explained here), it has instead become a sort of opinion pendulum, swinging in step with popular fashions and beliefs.
During psychology's relatively short history, the majority of beliefs and practices that have held sway over clinicians' thinking have been abandoned for cause, replaced by new, equally dubious notions. For example, in the 1960s, psychoanalyst Bruno Bettelheim declared that autistic children were produced by "refrigerator moms", mothers who, according to Bettelheim, were not competent to bond emotionally with their children, eventually resulting in a complete incapacity for emotional attachment in the children. It need hardly be added that Bettelheim's position had no supporting evidence whatsoever, a fact which didn't hinder its acceptance at all, more the rule than the exception in psychology.
Apart from a lack of evidence, the "refrigerator moms" idea had some serious, practical defects. By seeming to demonizing motherhood, this idea had the effect of driving a lot of perfectly good clients away from the services offered by psychologists. In the final analysis, psychology is a business, and businesses don't thrive by driving customers away (more on this below). Also, no amount of talk therapy, behavioral modification or drugs, applied to either the mothers or the children, seemed to improve the condition of autism sufferers. Obviously if autism were the result of specific parental behavior, changing parental behavior should have changed the condition, but this isn't what was observed. For these and other reasons, in recent times psychology's fashion pendulum has swung away from Bettelheim's harsh indictment of motherhood and apple pie.
But of all the factors working to change psychology's outlook, none is more important than some widespread changes in society outside the clinic doors. From a baseline attitude that individuals must accept individual responsibility for their actions, an idea that has been gradually eroding away in modern times, we are on the cusp of declaring everyone a victim of something — parents, society, genes, acts of God — and any throwbacks presuming to hold individuals responsible for their own fates and actions are accused of "blaming the victim," an inspired phrase and one perfectly in tune with modern times.
Before judging Bruno Bettelheim's error too harshly, one should realize that Bettleheim was a NAZI death camp survivor... and sought to draw parallel's between the behaviour of autistic children with the psychology induced in Death Camp survivors, such as himself.