Childhood Schizophrenia

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Schizophrenia is a mental illness which affects millions of people throughout the world. Scientists have begun to understand more and more about the possible causes, predisposing factors, types, and possible treatments for schizophrenia. (Torrey, 1995) It is very rare for schizophrenic symptoms to appear before the age of 12 but it does occur. Recently, there has been a growing interest in childhood schizophrenia. It is less than one-sixtieth as common as the adult-onset type but the characteristics are very similar. Childhood schizophrenia also tends to be harder to treat and to have a worse prognosis than the adult-onset form. (Rapoport, 1997) Childhood schizophrenia is seen as simply an early version of the adult-disease but it stems from a more severe brain disruption. (Bower, 1997) "Approximately two males are affected for every female. Only about two percent of individuals with schizophrenia have the onset of their disease in childhood". (Torrey, 1995) This depends on where the childhood-adult line is drawn. Schizophrenia beginning before age five is exceedingly rare, and between ages five and ten it increases slowly. From age ten, schizophrenia increases in incidence until age fifteen, when it begins its sharp upward peak as the adult disease. (Torrey, 1995)

There has been mounting evidence found that schizophrenia, similar to autism, has neurodevelopmental roots. More neurodevelopment damage has been seen in childhood schizophrenia than in the adult-onset type. Usually by age seven or later, many children with schizophrenia show delays in language and other functions. This occurs long before their psychotic symptoms develop, such as hallucinations, delusions, and disordered thinking. Research shows that 30% of these children show passing signs of prevalent developmental disorder in the first few years of life. They show display symptoms such as rocking, posturing, and arm flapping. (Rapoport, 1997) The adult-onset schizophrenic patients have been observed in childhood home movies which indicate that they have unusual patterns of crawling and uneven motor development. Schizophrenic children are more seriously impaired because they are more anxious and disruptive than adult-onset schizophrenic patients were as children. (Rapoport, 1997)

Like adult schizophrenia, childhood schizophrenia is thought to have some genetic factors involved. "It is known that these children have an excess number of minor physical anomalies and mothers' history of having had excess pregnancy and birth complications". (Torrey, 1995) In cases where mothers were able to describe in detail their child's birth, it was found that most children with schizophrenia went through complications. These complications included five cases in which the expectant mother was hypersensitive, two of whom developed preeclampsia. Three of these children were delivered by cesarean section. More complications included a delay in breathing, two babies were born with the chord around their neck, one child was ‘held back until the doctor came,' and one mother had to have induced labor intravenously which required the baby to spend several days in the intensive care nursery. (Cantor, 1988)

Several factors have contributed to the onset of childhood schizophrenia. Many well-known infectious diseases such as rubella, cytomegalovirus, and herpes simplex virus have had a link. These diseases, with respect to brain development, can cause chemical imbalances which can start the onset to schizophrenia in childhood. Prenatal nutritional deprivation is another factor which can create schizophrenia in both male and female babies.

There has also been a big connection between influenza and schizophrenia. "Influenza rates are high in the winter and early spring. So are rates of schizophrenic births (the well-known season of birth effect)". (Eggers, 1991) The results from this study suggest that there are certain neurodevelopmental processes...
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