Fecundity and Mental Illness


Research published in Archives of General Psychiatry finds that people with diagnoses such as schizophrenia, autism, and bipolar disorders have lower reproductive rates, raising questions about how genes for these disorders could be inherited and survive through generations.

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Kermit Cole
Kermit Cole, MFT, founding editor of Mad in America, works in Santa Fe, New Mexico as a couples and family therapist. Inspired by Open Dialogue, he works as part of a team and consults with couples and families that have members identified as patients. His work in residential treatment — largely with severely traumatized and/or "psychotic" clients — led to an appreciation of the power and beauty of systemic philosophy and practice, as the alternative to the prevailing focus on individual pathology. A former film-maker, he has undergraduate and master's degrees in psychology from Harvard University, as well as an MFT degree from the Council for Relationships in Philadelphia. He is a doctoral candidate with the Taos Institute and the Free University of Brussels. You can reach him at [email protected].


  1. Confusing the non-physical of mental illness with the physical world of (good) DNA. “schizophrenia, autism, and bipolar” were just invented, relative to the time mankind has been on earth.

    If there is any defect in the DNA children are born without fingers or something similar you can photograph and physically document.

    You can not photograph a human mind.

    Mental illness is as a result of the city environment. Artificial light , artificial food and not obeying orders.

    People are in a foreign world of machines. A cog in the machine. Don’t you want to work for the machine? Don’t you want to live and work in the noisy polluted dangerous concrete city?

    Mental illness IS the rational response to living in a city.

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    • Because it implies interesting questions about heritability, eugenics, etc, and I think it can be used to question the biomedical model.

      The Nazis wiped out a generation of people with schizophrenia diagnoses, thinking it would eliminate the “illness.” The next generation produced just as many people with the diagnosis. Clearly, their theory, having been tested in the starkest possible way, was incorrect.

      This study reminded me of that.

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      • Yes, thats true but EVERYTHING they produce or article they write is evidence of their own stupidity. Documenting their own crapness is one thing they are very good at.


        Psychiatry is full of it, and some of the latest “discoveries” in the field indicate just how full of it psychiatry happens to be. Take this report, New Genetic Mutations May Keep Some Mental Disorders From Dying Out, at PsychCentral. The post concerns a study suggesting that because mental patients have fewer children and “mental illness”, the label, isn’t dying out, we’re seeing genetic mutations…

        People with certain mental disorders, such as schizophrenia and autism, tend to have fewer children than the average person, suggesting that these disorders persist not because of heredity, but because of new genetic mutations, according to a new study.

        Or, and this isn’t stated, because we’re not dealing with a heritable condition. In other words, it’s a matter of the decisions people make in their lives and not so much the genes their parents gave them.
        People in the psychiatric system exist within a social context, and it’s this social context that is not being looked at so much.

        The findings shed light on a longstanding puzzle in psychiatry: How do the genes linked with some mental health disorders persist in the human population, if people with those disorders tend to have fewer children?

        I would suggest that the issue is a matter of supply and demand. If mental health professionals had fewer children, there wouldn’t be such a demand for nut cases.
        No doubt some Swedish researcher somewhere along the way was impacted by the SciFi movie The Andromeda Strain, and nothing can be the same since.
        For example, schizophrenia is extremely heritable, so it would make sense that it becomes more rare over time. But the disorder seems to persist in 1 percent of the population, which suggests that new mutations are occurring quickly enough for it to remain consistent, said [researcher Robert] Power.
        Correction, bias has it that schizophrenia is extremely heritable despite all the evidence that would indicate otherwise. If it’s not genes, it must be genes. This is biological psychiatry to the core. Nobody is saying look to social and environmental factors, nobody is saying that, but maybe somebody should.

        When you are selling disease it is convenient to pretend you are selling something else, like health, because people wouldn’t tend to buy disease on its demerits alone.

        The researchers note that some people with mental disorders may take medication that affects fertility, or they may have been hospitalized at some point during their reproductive years, and these factors may have influenced the results.
        Or they may be facing prejudice in what is referred to as the competition for suitable, if desirable is too strong a word, partners. One scapegoat doesn’t reproduce. Two scapegoats do reproduce, but they hardly do so well as the goat with his harem in the herd.

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        • I just want to say I like this post and the comment above. This kind of discussion is exactly why I’m glad we post such findings.

          Please bear in mind that while you may find everything about psychiatric research stupid, that is not the point of view of the mission of this site. Bob’s books are riddled with important psych research findings. The data may contribute to ones understanding whether or not s/he agrees with the researcher’s conclusion.

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          • Thanks for the clarification. I should take a look at the mission statement.

            The trouble I have with these “findings” is that they may add to a better understanding with respect to a particular way of thinking about madness but they distract the eye from, imo more helpful perspectives.

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          • OK Matthew no problem. I do a lot of writing now so often think about words and their meanings, as I write, trying to choose the right word to convey what I want to say.

            And I think the saying ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’ is a true one. Especially regarding psychiatric note writing, when with the stroke of a pen some of us are consigned to a life of schizophrenia. Psychiatric diagnoses, even when wrong, can’t be erased from ‘medical’ notes. This is the power of psychiatry. To label us and then consequently drug us.

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      • All I know is that a pen is no use when the police/kidnap squad turn up to drag you away.

        The pen is no good when the carers/frustrated martial artist on the ward decide to put you in seclusion.

        The pen is no good when the psychiatrist decides a community treatment order will be good for you.

        Talking is fine but you cant use reason and logic to talk someone out of a position they never used reason or logic to arrive at.

        btw we are on the same side. I was being flippant…

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        • Well – I’ve been forcibly treated in psychiatric ‘care’ so know something of what you’re talking about. And I did think you were being flippant and as we say here in Scotland, a “bit of a wind up merchant”. It’s OK I’m used to it, I’ve got 3 sons now grown up and the youngest hasn’t got hitched yet so is still winding me up.

          And by the by I wouldn’t have said you were an inarticulate poet. So your words are probably now being put to good use, in other places and not just here.

          I do quite a bit of writing now – by Email, blog, twitter etc. And think it is having some influence as is my speaking about stuff, and keeping on speaking, and doing it again. Being persistent. Which I’m sure you’re good at.

          It’s the chipping away and the constant flow, of words and meaning, personal stories and saying it how it, that I think will make the folk in power come around. If only to get us off their backs. If you know what I mean.

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  2. I think the lower birth is mostly likely explained by the fact that existential crisis, which is what most often gets labeled at mental illness, happens during peak reproductive years. Also, society’s views of those labels tend to limit reproductive options.

    I think this article does show how stupid these authors are, but is it relevant for a few reasons. Maybe when our site hosts post this stuff they can point out what they think is interesting and how it supports our views?

    I have noticed that when I go to Alternatives type conferences that there will be like 3 kids in a room full of 1000 people. I feel like it’a post apocalyptic sci fi novel and like maybe those 3 kids are our only hope to keep civilization alive.

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