One of the primary risk factors for schizophrenia is a family history of the illness. Having a relative with schizophrenia increases one’s risk for other mental health problems as well. However, dissecting the exact genetic relationship between schizotypal personality disorder and other mental health risk factors is convoluted because most psychological illnesses are heritable. To better understand what co-occurring and varying genetic factors exist in individuals with a family history of schizotypal personality disorder, Sarah I. Tarbox of the Department of Psychology at the University of Pittsburgh examined 640 Americans with a family history and 43 individuals with no genetic risk factors. The goals of her study were to identify accurate genetic risk factor measurements and predictability of schizotypal personality disorder. She also wanted to measure the specificity of the scales used to measure genetic risk present in schizophrenia families against measurements used to assess substance misuse and depression, mental health problems that are often comorbid with schizophrenic disorders.
Tarbox analyzed multigenerational data from all of the participants and found that there were six specific genetic risk factors for schizotypal personality disorder that were not present in healthy controls or individuals at risk for depression or substance abuse. Additionally, Tarbox discovered that all of the risk factors were indeed genetic and significantly prevalent in participants with a family history of schizotypal personality disorder. The findings of this study are clinically important. Tarbox said, “Identification of genetic factors thus appears to be a promising technique for maximizing genetic correlation of endophenotypes with schizophrenia.” This information may help clinicians better ascertain which family members are more vulnerable to the development of schizophrenia than others, thus allowing them to provide earlier intervention and better symptom management. Tarbox added, “These results underscore that response bias in schizophrenia families is an important consideration when acquiring self-report information and warrants future study to better delineate the origins of this bias.”
Tarbox, S. I., Almasy, L., Gur, R. E., Nimgaonkar, V. L., Pogue-Geile, M. F. (2012, January 30). The Nature of Schizotypy Among Multigenerational Multiplex Schizophrenia Families. Journal of Abnormal Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0026787
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