The high-risk method is an important strategy for studying the antecedents and causes of schizophrenia and other psychoses. The Swedish High-Risk Project is a prospective longitudinal study of offspring of women with a history of schizophrenic, schizoaffective, affective, or unspecified functional psychoses and control women with no history of psychosis. The offspring and their environments were studied beginning before birth, and again during childhood. This article reports the mental outcome results from the first adult follow-up at age 22 years.
Of 178 offspring, 166 (93%) were followed up and blindly assessed using standardized methods, including a self-report scale for mental symptoms and the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-III-R.
Compared with controls (n = 91), the offspring of mothers with schizophrenia(n = 28) showed a significantly increased frequency of DSM-III-R Axis I and Axis II disorders, poor global functioning, high Symptom Checklist–90 scores, and a history of mental health care and psychopharmacologic medication use. Offspring of mothers with affective disorders(n = 22) showed high Symptom Checklist–90 scores, more frequent poor functioning, and receipt of mental health care, with a significant increase in Axis I depressive disorders and no increase in Axis II disorders. The extension of schizophrenia and affective risk groups to include additional maternal "spectrum cases" (10 and 15 individuals, respectively) generally yielded similar results.
Maternal schizophrenia is associated with widespread increases in offspring mental disturbance in adolescence and young adulthood, differing from offspring disturbance associated with maternal affective disorder.