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The aim of this study was to verify the presence and stability across life of the positive/negative distinction in early-onset schizophrenia (EO-SZ) through a longitudinal factor analysis of the schizophrenic dimensions, and to identify the factors predicting several indices of long-term outcome for EO-SZ.
Forty children consecutively referred for DSM–III–R schizophrenia (SZ) in a specific catchment area comprised the sample.
Across a 14.8-year follow-up, longitudinal factor analysis identified two separate factors corresponding to the positive and negative symptom dimensions. We also observed that: the GAS rated over the last three years of adult illness and the severity of negative symptoms during the stabilised interepisode intervals in adulthood were the indices of adult outcome that were most easily predicted; and the best childhood predictors of adult outcome were premorbid functioning and severity of positive and negative symptoms during acute episodes.
The presence of premorbid non-psychotic behaviour disturbances (NPBD) and premorbid developmental problems was not related to severity of outcome, in contrast to the former variables.
Little is known about the long-term outcome of schizophrenia that has its onset during childhood and early adolescence (early-onset schizophrenia, or EO-SZ). Whether or not EO-SZ is an aetiologically separate form of schizophrenia (SZ) is unresolved.
The study was a 14.8-year follow-up, using methods such as systematic sampling, evaluation of possible non-respondent bias, consensus best-estimate diagnoses (DSM–III–R) made independently in childhood and adulthood, measures of positive and negative dimensions, of non-psychotic behaviour disturbances (NPBD) and of developmental problems before the appearance of SZ.
There was high stability of EO-SZ (n=40) diagnoses (mean onset at 14.0 years) until adulthood (mean age at follow-up 28.8 years) but a lower stability of positive and negative schizophrenic dimensions. There was a poor outcome of EO-SZ, a strong over-representation of males but few gender differences, and no effect of age of onset on clinical features and outcome.
EO-SZ taken as a whole shows no qualitative differences to adult-onset SZ. However, a distinction through the onset of preschizophrenic developmental problems or NPBD might be a way to investigate heterogeneity within EO-SZ.
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