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September 1993

Lifetime DSM-III-R Diagnostic Outcomes in the Offspring of Schizophrenic Mothers: Results From the Copenhagen High-Risk Study

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Psychiatry, Hvidovre Hospital, Copenhagen University, Hvidovre, Denmark (Dr Parnas); Departments of Psychology and Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia (Dr Cannon); Institute of Preventive Medicine (formerly Psykologisk Institut), Kommunehospitalet, Copenhagen, Denmark (Drs Parnas, Cannon, Jacobsen, F. Schulsinger, and Mednick); Institute of Clinical Psychology, University of Copenhagen (Dr H. Schulsinger); and Social Science Institute, University of Southern California, Los Angeles (Dr Mednick).

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1993;50(9):707-714. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1993.01820210041005


To perform a long-term prospective follow-up of children at high risk for schizophrenia to identify risk factors for the development of this disorder.

Design:  Prospective follow-up population study of children of schizophrenic mothers and their matched controls from age 15 years to age 42 years, with multiple diagnostic assessments performed by senior clinicians using structured interviews blindly with respect to the group membership of the subject.

Participants:  Two hundred seven offspring of schizophrenic mothers and 104 control children without schizophrenic parents matched to the index group on age, sex, paternal socioeconomic status, urban/rural residence, and the amount of time spent during childhood in institutional rearing.

Main Outcome Measure:  The prevalence of theDSM-III-R disorders during the subjects lifetime.

Results:  A significant aggregation of schizophrenia (16.2%) and other nonaffective, nonorganic psychosis (4.6%), and Cluster A personality disorders (21.3%) occurred among the offspring of schizophrenic mothers compared with the controls (1.9%, 0.9%, and 5%, respectively). No evidence of increased aggregation of (psychotic and nonpsychotic) affective disorders was noted among the offspring of schizophrenics.

Conclusion:  These results coincide wth the results of other family studies in demonstrating a significant and specific familial aggregation of schizophrenia and nonpsychotic schizophrenia spectrum disorders among the biological relatives of schizophrenics.

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