Psychotic symptoms in childhood and adolescence – characterising a new “at-risk” paradigm for schizophrenia.

Presentation First Author: 
Mary Cannon

The traditional approach to studying schizophrenia has been to compare a group of affected individuals with a group of individuals with schizophrenia on a particular measure of interest. However it is not clear whether schizophrenia represents the extreme end of a continuum within the general population or a qualitatively distinct entity. The dimensional model of schizophrenia is predicated on the idea that subclinical or subdiagnostic symptoms of psychosis are relatively common in the population. Why are subclinical psychotic symptoms of interest? Firstly, children with psychotic symptoms followed to adulthood have an increased prevalence of diagnosed psychotic illness indicating that children who report these symptoms could be conceptualised as an ‘at-risk’ group. Secondly, these findings direct attention to the identification of etiological mechanisms and early risk factors (whether genetic or environmental or a combination of both) that convert vulnerability to disease. There is a compelling argument for studying such symptoms in children and adolescents as they have not yet reached the peak age of onset of schizophrenia and are more likely to include those individuals who are truly ‘at risk’ than adults who have already passed through the risk period. The study of psychotic symptoms in childhood and adolescence represents a convergence between the developmental and the dimensional approaches to studying psychosis. At the intersection of these risks may lie those individuals most at risk and therefore most informative about etiological pathways and trajectories not just for schizophrenia but also for other psychiatric disorders.

Conference Name: 
Presentation Date: 
January, 2013
Additional Authors: 
Mary Cannon
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