Prenatal and Family Environment Disruptions in Schizophrenia

Kermit Cole
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Research from Harvard finds that prenatal and family environment disruptions are elevated in families of people with schizophrenia diagnoses, supporting the authors’ (including noted researcher Ming Tsuang) proposed theory that “biological and social environmental influences across critical developmental periods points to key issues relevant for enhanced identification of psychosis susceptibility, facilitation of more precise models of illness risk, and development of novel prevention strategies.”

Walder, D., Faraone, S., Glatt, S., Tsuang, M., Seidman, L.; Genetic liability, prenatal health, stress and family environment: Risk factors in the Harvard Adolescent Family High Risk for Schizophrenia Study. Schizophrenia Research. Online May 16, 2014. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.schres.2014.04.015

From the study’s conclusions:

“Prenatal and family environmental disruptions are elevated in families with a first-degree relative with schizophrenia. Findings support our proposed ‘polygenic neurodevelopmental diathesis–stress model’ whereby psychosis susceptibility (and resilience) involves the independent and synergistic confluence of (temporally-sensitive) biological and environmental factors across development. Recognition of biological and social environmental influences across critical developmental periods points to key issues relevant for enhanced identification of psychosis susceptibility, facilitation of more precise models of illness risk, and development of novel prevention strategies.

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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]

4 COMMENTS

  1. This approach almost seems like a comedy routine. How much money did it cost to make this all but unintelligible discovery? “psychosis susceptibility (and resilience) involves the independent and synergistic confluence of (temporally-sensitive) biological and environmental factors across development” = hence, try to get born into a happy family in the extended sense. A smart person could conclude this without the need to present it in such intimidating terms. This is more wasted research to conclude what has always been known by the wise. The materialistic approach is itself part of what is driving society into a kind of collective madness. Harvard gets large donations to perpetuate things which are harmful to people. And not alone in medicine and psychology. Law, political science, philosophy, etc. At some point one might awaken to the travesty of modern American education.

    • I understand your cynicism but I personally think it’s awesome that papers like this get published. It only shows that you can’t put everything on the genetics and you have to take environmental, especially social factors into account. That’s a step forward – better late than never.

      • What is essencially the nature vs nurture debate, is an age old debate. And anyone (including the psychiatric industry) who thought either nature or nurture lacks all relevance, is quite sincerely foolish.

        And the goal of this paper seems to be to “enhance identification of psychosis susceptibility” for the “development of prevention strategies.” It’s about rationalizing new ways to mandate neuroleptics, prior to a psychotic break. I think cynicism is, unfortunately, still appropriate.

        • I do not know if you are right in your analysis of the purpose of the paper but your general theory is all the rage these days in psychiatric thinking – it would increase big pharma profits loads if they could drug up more young people and then keep them on the drugs for life