Childhood-onset schizophrenia: the severity of premorbid course

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Psychiatry

Publication Date


Document Type



Adolescent; Adult; *Age of Onset; Child; Child Development Disorders, Pervasive; Female; Humans; Language Disorders; Male; Observer Variation; Psychiatric Status Rating Scales; Schizophrenia; Schizophrenic Psychology; *Severity of Illness Index; Speech Disorders




OBJECTIVE: To review the premorbid histories of 23 children meeting DSM-III-R criteria for schizophrenia with onset before age 12 years and to compare these with childhood data of later-onset schizophrenics.

METHOD: Premorbid features up to 1 year before onset of first psychotic symptoms were rated from hospital and clinic records, clinical interviews, rating scales, and tests.

RESULTS: In keeping with previous studies, specific developmental disabilities and transient early symptoms of autism, particularly motor stereotypies, were common. Comparison with the childhood of later-onset schizophrenics showed greater delay in language development, and more premorbid speech and language disorders, learning disorders, and disruptive behavior disorders. (Sixty percent had received or were estimated to meet criteria for one or more clinical diagnoses.)

CONCLUSIONS: Childhood-onset schizophrenia may represent a more malignant form of the disorder, although selection and ascertainment bias cannot be ruled out. The presence of prepsychotic language difficulties focuses attention on the importance of early temporal and frontal lobe development; early transient motor stereotypies suggest developmental basal ganglia abnormalities and extend previous findings seen in the childhood of later-onset patients.

DOI of Published Version



J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 1995 Oct;34(10):1273-83. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID