October 1987

Clinical Features of Illness in Siblings With Schizophrenia or Schizoaffective Disorder

Author Affiliations

From the Clinical Neurogenetics Branch, National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, Md. Dr DeLisi is now with the Department of Psychiatry, Health Sciences Center, SUNY at Stony Brook, Stony Brook, NY.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1987;44(10):891-896. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1987.01800220057009

• Evidence implicating genetic or prenatal-perinatal environmental causes in the familial aggregation of schizophrenia led us to study 53 sets of siblings, two or more of whom had chronic psychosis, either schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder. We looked for similarities in clinical features and concordance of diagnosis within sibships to test for shared familial causes. Clinical variables, including diagnosis, specific symptoms, age at onset, and nongenetic perinatal factors, were studied. Auditory hallucinations, paranoid delusions, thought disorder, negative symptoms, and poor premorbid social adjustment did not significantly correlate in siblings. Concordance was found for schizoaffective disorder and history of major depressive episodes, suggesting that schizophrenia with a depressive component and Research Diagnostic Criteria schizoaffective illness may represent a specific etiologic subtype(s) of the illness, whereas the other noted symptoms may represent the variable expression of the disorder. Age at onset and at first hospitalization were significantly correlated, consistent with genetic or other familial factors on time of onset. Birth complications were significantly more frequent among the schizophrenic compared with nonpsychotic siblings, had a familial component, and tended to be associated with an earlier age at onset. Thus, nongenetic perinatal factors may increase the risk for schizophrenia in a familial form of the illness and contribute to the correlation of ages at onset in siblings.