Thought Problems in Childhood May Predict Schizo-Related Psychosis

Thought problems (TD) have been suggested to be predictors for schizo-related psychosis (SRP). Individuals at high risk for schizophrenia and other forms of psychosis may exhibit high levels of TD, but until now, these relationships have not been fully explored with respect to later schizo-related psychosis. TD can be classified as positive or negative. Positive TD is a general pattern of disordered thinking, while negative TD represents a verbal deficit and overall deficit in vocabulary.

To get a better understanding of how TD is associated with psychosis, including mood disorders and SRP, Diane Carol Gooding of the University of Wisconsin-Madison recently led a study that examined data from 265 individuals in childhood and early adulthood. Using information from a larger study, Gooding assessed videotaped sessions of participants whose parents had schizophrenia and compared them to participants whose parents had either affective disorders or no psychological issues. The sessions were designed to measure TD using language and communication tasks. The participants were in mid-childhood at the time of the first assessment and were evaluated again in early adulthood.

Gooding found that positive TD was a common trait in the participants at high risk for SRP and those whose parents had affective disorders, but not among those without a family history of psychological problems. When Gooding looked at negative TD however, she found that it was only evident in the participants at high risk for SRP, namely, those whose parents had schizophrenia.

Specifically, the participants in the very high risk group had a deficit in speech and speech content when compared to the other groups. Negative TD has been shown to be a risk factor for schizophrenia and in combination with other risk factors, such as family history and low IQ, can indicate who is most vulnerable to SRP in adulthood.

Gooding believes that the evidence of TD in early to mid-childhood is significant because it may represent an early marker for those at risk for SRP and may even be a symptom evident in the earliest stages of SRP. These findings provide a better understanding of the relationship between TD and psychosis. “Most importantly,” added Gooding, “They also demonstrate the specificity of negative TD to predicting schizophrenia-related, but not affective, psychoses.”

Gooding, D. C., et al. (2013). Thought Disorder in Mid-Childhood as a Predictor of Adulthood Diagnostic Outcome: Findings from the New York High-Risk Project. Psychological Medicine 43.5 (2013): 1003-12. ProQuest. Web.

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  • Gabby

    June 3rd, 2013 at 3:04 PM

    So who decides if a person ahs this general pattern of disordered thinking? I mean, if this is the only requirement then I am sure that more than half of all of us exhibit that, so there has to surely be other details that go along with this?

  • Quinn l

    June 4th, 2013 at 3:46 AM

    This could be one of the answers that we have been searching for when it comes being able to definitively identify from an early age who may be at risk for some of these disorders that generally have a later onset. If we see that a child is having issues with his thought processes, perhaps this is the first step toward an early intervention process. Of course it does not mean that if they are going to get the disease that it will stop it; but it might allow the child a bit more chance of normalcy as an adult than they would have had without an early intervention process. This does mean that teachers and parents alike have to be on the lookout for some of these signs, and they have to be willing to speak up when they see a problem and solicit the advice of their caregiver immediately.


    June 4th, 2013 at 8:53 AM

    Thought problems-first time I’m coming across this term.But it does sound like something that could be an indicator of future problems…Look,everybody’s thinking is different,but when the thought process is different on a mental level,on a neurological level,then it is obvious that there could be a problem.And the fact that parents’ disorders had an effect clearly demonstrates this.

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