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Article
May 1997

Thought Disorder in Schizophrenic and Control Adoptees and Their Relatives

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Mass (Drs Kinney and Holzman); the Laboratories for Psychiatric Research (Drs Kinney and Hildebrand, Ms Kasell, and Mr Zimbalist) and the Psychology Research Laboratory (Dr Holzman), McLean Hospital, Belmont, Mass; the Department of Psychology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass (Dr Holzman); and the Institute of Preventive Medicine, Copenhagen Hospital Corporation, Copenhagen, Denmark (Drs Jacobsen, Jansson, and Faber).

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1997;54(5):475-479. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1997.01830170101013
Abstract

Background:  Previous research showed significantly elevated levels of thought disorder in the relatives of persons with schizophrenia, as well as in the persons with schizophrenia themselves. Comparisons of schizophrenic and control adoptees and their respective relatives provide a method for minimizing the confounding of genetic and environmental sources of familial resemblance and for elucidating whether the elevated levels of thought disorder in persons with schizophrenia and their relatives reflect the influence of shared genetic factors, shared environmental factors, or both. The present study provides the first such adoption-sample data on an operationally defined measure of thought disorder.

Methods:  Speech samples elicited by standard interview questions from schizophrenic and control adoptees and their respective biological and adoptive relatives were tape-recorded. Verbatim transcripts of these speech samples were scored, while unaware of the personal or family diagnoses of the subjects, using the Thought Disorder Index (TDI). The differences were most marked for the samples of biological sibs and half sibs, which were larger and more representative than the samples of parents. Results suggest that the elevated TDI scores in the relatives of persons with schizophrenia that have been found in other studies reflect the operation of genes increasing the liability for schizophrenia, rather than the rearing experiences that were shared in common with schizophrenic probands.

Results:  The mean TDI scores were significantly higher in schizophrenic than in control adoptees and in biological relatives of the schizophrenic adoptees than in the biological relatives of the control adoptees, whereas the respective groups of adoptive relatives did not differ significantly. The differences were most marked for the samples of biological sibs and half sibs, which were larger and more representative than the samples of parents.

Conclusion:  Results suggest that the elevated TDI scores in the relatives of persons with schizophrenia that have been found in other studies reflect the operation of genes increasing the liability for schizophrenia, rather than the rearing experiences that were shared in common with schizophrenic probands.

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