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Michael J. Goldstein

Professor of Psychology, Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, Emeritus

Los Angeles



Michael J. Goldstein, one of the world’s most prominent researchers in psychosocial factors and treatments in the major mental disorders, died of cancer on March 13, 1997. He was born on June 30, 1930, to Harry and Ethel Goldstein of Brooklyn, New York. He received the bachelor of arts degree in speech pathology from the State University of Iowa in 1952 and the doctor of philosophy degree in clinical psychology from the University of Washington in 1957. His dissertation, conducted with Alan Edwards, concerned coping and avoidance behavior in reaction to fear-arousing propaganda. He began at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in 1957 as an instructor in the Department of Psychology. At the time of his death, he was professor emeritus in the Department of Psychology and the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences at UCLA.


Goldstein was a strong advocate of clinical psychology as an independent profession with strong links to psychiatry and social work, which was reflected in his systematic research on family interactional behavior as a precursor to the development of schizophrenia. Beginning in the 1960s, Goldstein and his close colleague and mentor Eliot Rodnick formed the UCLA Family Project, a laboratory for the systematic study of the families of disturbed adolescents. Goldstein and his colleagues found that those adolescents who developed schizophrenia and related disorders in adulthood were most often from families that, at baseline, had shown high levels of “communication deviance” (unclear, unintelligible, or fragmented communication) or negative “affective style” (parent-to-offspring communication that is strongly evaluative, critical, or intrusive).


Goldstein’s research contributed substantially to the current understanding of how genetic predisposition, early sings of psychopathology, and family interaction contribute to the onset of schizophrenia. His work was influential for a generation of researchers as well as for those interested in developing prevention programs for at-risk youth.


In the mid-to late-1970s, Goldstein conducted the first randomized, controlled study of family intervention for schizophrenic disorder at Camarillo Sate Hospital in Ventura County, California. He was prescient in designing a brief, crisis-oriented psychoeducational model for treating families in an outpatient community context. He and his colleagues found that family intervention, when given with high or low doses of injectable fluphenazine decanoate, delayed relapses of psychosis among schizophrenic patients over a 6-month period. Family psychoeducation is now considered the preferred method of psychosocial intervention for postepisode schizophrenia patients who are also receiving maintenance pharmacotherapy.


Goldstein’s research in the 1980s was focused on the systematic study of “expressed emotion,” a measure of critical, hostile, or emotionally overinvolved attitudes among the relatives of psychiatric patients. In British studies, this construct had been found to predict the likelihood of relapse of schizophrenic patients. He and his colleagues helped clarify this predictive association through investigating how high- and low-expressed emotion families differed in their styles of face-to-face interaction. He showed that patients were symptomatically affected by these interactions in the short run but, also, that patients contributed to disturbed family processes through their own verbal and nonverbal behavior.


Goldstein published extensively on premorbid social behavior, projective testing, bipolar affective disorder, and clinical pharmacology, but the study of schizophrenia was his passion. He thrived on collaboration, and his investigations with Keith Nuechterlein, Robert Liberman, and others at the UCLA Clinical Research Center resulted in many highly influential research articles on vulnerability-stress interactions in schizophrenia. His research resulted in over 200 journal articles and several books, including a popular textbook, Abnormal Psychology, with B. Baker and K. Jamison.


Goldstein’s many awards included a Fulbright Research Professor Award from the University of Copenhagen (1960-1961), a MERIT Award from the National Institute of Mental Health, a Distinguished Teacher Award from UCLA (1988), the Alexander Gralnick Award from the American Psychological Association (1996), and Distinguished Scientist Awards from the Association for Clinical Psychosocial Research and the American Psychological Association (1997).


Mike had many friends and greatly enjoyed the company of others. He combined his natural charisma with a tremendous personal warmth. Many knew him as an avid traveler, a gracious host, and a man of culture. Up to the time of his death, he remained active in research and teaching. He is survived by Vida Goldstein, his wife of 43 years; their three children, Janet, Peter, and Ellen; four grandchildren; and his sister Joan Goldstein.


David J. Miklowitz

Eliot H. Rodnick