PARENTAL SEPARATION IN CHILDREN AT RISK FOR SCHIZOPHRENIA
DEUTSCH, SERENA LYNN
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Longitudinal data on the offspring of schizophrenic parents were examined to assess the effects of parental separation on the development of psychosocial functioning.;This investigation was derived from an extensive prospective study of children at risk for schizophrenia. The sample consisted of 35 high risk children (mother or father with schizophrenic disorder) and 35 psychiatric controls (mother or father with affective disorder).;Two categories of separation were examined which occurred as a result of a parental hospitalization. The first involved being separated from the patient-parent only and remaining in an otherwise intact home environment. The second involved being separated from both parents and the home environment.;Since the children were only beginning to enter a major risk period for schizophrenia (their mean age is 17.5 and the risk period for schizophrenia extends from ages 15 and 30) final clinical outcomes were not available at the time of this investigation. The evaluation of friendship patterns was considered appropriate for interim assessments since reduced levels of friendship and intimacy have been noted in the premorbid histories of schizophrenic patients.;Four outcome measures of interpersonal functioning were included which assessed (1) Peer Relatedness, (2) Separation from Parents, (3) General Social Ease and (4) General Intimacy. A fifth measure of overall functioning, The Behavioral Global Assessment Scale was also included.;There were no statistically significant main effects across the outcome measures when children were separated from the patient-parent only. In contrast, the results demonstrated a significant negative main effect across the outcome measures when children were temporarily sent away. A multiple regression analysis was performed in order to test the independent effects of being sent away when possible confounding variables were held constant. It was argued that the association between being sent away and the variance on the outcome measures probably reflects causal links.;The results are discussed in light of previous research and explanations were offered for the differential impact of the two categories of separation.
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