Social isolation during childhood, teen years and early adulthood is associated with a higher risk of schizophrenia later in life


Research suggests that social isolation (i.e. limited social interaction with other children) and poor or disrupted interpersonal relations during childhood, teen and early adult years appears to increase an individuals risk for future development of schizophrenia-spectrum disorders. Research also suggests that social isolation and poor social relations are indicators of high levels of social stress and anxiety in the child. Research also suggests that early encouragement and support by parents for increased positive social interaction at an early age may help children overcome social anxiety and stress.

The research on this area started in 1956 when Dr. Hare reported that social isolation, as measured by propotion of single person households in a geographic area, was associated with increased rates of schizophrenia. More recently Thornicroft et al (1993) reported the clustering of individuals with schizophrenia in deprived areas occurs only in urban areas and suggested that social isolation is an important factor in this. (though the difficulty of discerning between cause and effect has been noted in this study). In 2000 Dr. Van Os et al, reported that people who were single had a slightly higher risk of developing psychosis if they lived in a neighborhood with fewer single people compared to neighborhoods with more single people. Another study has shown that marriage has a protective effect (Jablensky and Cole, 1997) against schizophrenia.

Good Books to help parents assist children in learning good social skills and avoid social isolation:

  • Parenting From the Inside Out - an excellent new parenting book that we highly recommend. In Parenting from the Inside Out child psychiatrist Daniel J. Siegel, M.D., and early childhood educator Mary Hartzell, M. Ed., explore the extent to which our childhood experiences actually do shape the way that we parent. Drawing upon important new findings in neurobiology and attachment research, they explain how interpersonal relationships directly impact the development of the brain, and offer parents a step-by-step approach to forming a deeper understanding of their own life stories that will help them raise compassionate and resilient children."
  • What am I feeling, By Dr. John Gottman. A good book (but very short - only 48 pages) to teach parents how to help children express and process emotions in a healthy way - to help them lower their social stress levels and encourage social skills. A good book for parents who want to get a quick understanding of how to help children in their emotional needs, for a better mental health in the long term.
  • How to Raise An Emotionally Intelligent Child, By Dr. John Gottman - a great book that goes into more depth on how to raise a child that has good emotional processing skills and good social skills, thus lowering social stress that he or she encounters (thus potentially lowering the risk of schizophrenia and other mental health disorders).
  • The Magic Years - is an excellent book, written by a professor of psychology at the University of San Francisco Medical School, that covers how parents can moderate the amount of stress and anxiety that a child goes through as they grow from birth through age six. A great "general parenting" book that we think every parent of younger children should read.
  • The Optimistic Child: Proven Program to Safeguard Children from Depression & Build Lifelong Resilience - Dr. Seligman - a well known research psychologist has a mission here which is to teach parents and other concerned adults how to instill in children a sense of optimism and personal mastery. Seligman discounts prevalent theory that children who are encouraged by others to feel good about themselves will do well. Instead, he proposes that self-esteem comes from mastering challenges, overcoming frustration and experiencing individual achievement. In clear, concise prose peppered with anecdotes, dialogues, cartoons and exercises, Seligman offers a concrete plan of action based on techniques of self-evaluation and social interaction. He describes the development of the Penn Depression Prevention Program, in which school kids are taught ways to divest themselves of pessimistic approaches and adopt optimistic ones, and adapts it to home use by parents. Seligman's recent research profoundly demonstrates that children can be taught techniques of optimistic thinking that, in effect, 'depression-proofs' them and help's lower their social stress.
  • Emotionally Intelligent Parenting : How to Raise a Self-Disciplined, Responsible, Socially Skilled Child - by Daniel Goleman et al, This book focuses on translating Goleman's basic principals as outlined in his book "Emotional Intelligence" into specific parenting tactics for solving daily family issues. The book includes exercises for raising the family "humor quotient," becoming aware of feelings, praising and prioritizing, and coaching your child in responsible action. Emotionally Intelligent Parenting is easy to follow, and provides suggestions for parents at all levels of commitment to the concept.

Helpful Actions: Helping children learn strong social skills and grow up in a positive and active social environment may offer a protective factor against mental illness.

Relevant Research (a sample):

More scientific research information, see:

Google Scholar: schizophrenia social isolation

Google Scholar: schizophrenia social stress
























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