April 28, 2005

Risk if mother has schizophrenia

Risk of psychiatric illness when parent has mental illness

This paper looks at a large population in Finland in which the authors collected data on all children born to mothers with a psychiatric diagnosis. They were interested in the chance that those born to such mothers might develop a mental illness in their lifetime. They looked at all mothers who were born in Helsinki from 1916 to 1948 and had previously been treated in a psychiatric hospital in Finland and received a diagnosis of a schizophrenia spectrum disorder and gave birth from 1960-1964. 192 children were identified, and they were compared with the children born in the same hospital immediately preceding their birth. Since diagnostic criteria have changed over the years, the charts were reviewed and patients assessed a diagnosis based on current standards.

The authors found that there was a nearly 7 percent chance of developing schizophrenia in an offspring if the mother had schizophrenia versus about a 0.6% chance in the control group in which the mother did not have schizophrenia. Other schizophrenia spectrum disorders yielded similar figures. Mothers with a mood disorder had no children develop schizophrenia though it was a small sample. Overall, mothers with schizophrenia had a 13.5% risk of their child developing a significant psychiatric disorder in their lifetime compared with 1.2% in the control group. In similar studies done previously in New York and Copenhagen the results were similar though they were higher than in this study (Copenhagen study had nearly 17% of offspring develop a psychiatric diagnosis.) However, there are explanations for the difference not the least of which is that diagnostic criteria became more strict in this study. Also, only those diagnosed as inpatients could become part of the study while there are some that will present as outpatients and ever be hospitalized therefore lowering the overall number of cases. There were also increased rates of substance abuse in the high risk mothers but it was found that in this study (different from the other similar studies) that the paternal substance abuse had a greater correlation to the offspring likelihood of similar problems though it was noted that generally the fathers with substance abuse had more significant problems than the mothers with substance use disorders. Both mothers and fathers of the higher risk children were more likely than the control group to have substance abuse in their histories.

Cumulative incidence of mental disorders among offspring of mothers with psychotic disorder Results from the Helsinki High-Risk Study

Laura T. Niemi, Jaana M. Suvisaari, Jari K. Haukka, Gunnel Wrede and Jouko K. Lonnqvist

British Journal of Psychiatry (2004), 185:11-17.

Click here to access on PubMed


My mother has had schizophrenia for years, since I was young is as long as I can remember. It seems she has gotten worse over years because unlike before, now she doesnt even consider hygiene,financial matters, or even my personal life as i would normally expect her too. It hurts enough that her illness has caused me to constantly be overly self-conscious, dating back to early days in school. I'm in desperate need of advice as I start school at a local community college. Thanks.

Posted by: Glenn Davis at January 31, 2006 05:06 PM


My mother has schizophrenia too, and has had since I was born. She too is getting worse, but this is normal with this condition, it's beyond your control really.

You probably know alot of this already but here's my ten cents worth of advice: One of the most important things is to make sure she has a good psychiatrist that she sees regularly and who moniotrs her medication, which she must be taking. If her symptoms have become worse, it may be that she needs something done with her meds. I don't know about in your country, but in Australia there is a community mental health service that provides a Case Manager to my mother, if they have something like this in your town you should get it, just any kind of help that takes the sole burden of her care off you is very important, other people need to be involved, you can't do it on your own.

Maybe even a Neighboruhood or Community Centre, hospital social work service or something like that could help out with her care. If she can't clean her house, maybe she can get homehelp if you have this in your town...Basically, you need help to care for her, and there should be professionals in the community whose job it is to do this. Albeit, this won't solve everything, but should give you some breathing space to have a life.

Having a mother with schizophrenia is so incredibly stressful, even though they are beautiful people, and your mother, they can be demanding, and dependent. You need a life, and establishing boundaries is important too.

Take care of yourself, it's totally normal to be embarrasedand self concsious because other people don't or can't understand what it's like, you don't have to tell people, it's none of their business, it's your life it's your business...

I hope you do things to take care of your self, and make sure you put yourself first, you can't care for anyone else if you fall apart from stress. You are a wonderful person for caring for your mother, I hope eveyrthing works out for you.

Posted by: cathie at March 10, 2006 11:58 PM

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

My mother is a schizophrenic for more than 45 years.She lives in tsunami affected coastal village in South India.As we were not much aware of mental sickness we did not take her for treatment.Now she is 63 and a diabetic patient too. Being the only son to my mother I look after her with lots of love and care. She lost her son who was at his twenties.
My family sufferred a lot because of her sickness. I lost all my joys of child hood and motherly touch.
I want my mother to become normal. Can a person with good heart help me with some money to take her for treatment? It is really a genuine request.
I will be very very grateful to.Because she is lovely mother and wish her to live a few more years.Bye.

Posted by: Jaya mohan at October 30, 2006 07:04 AM

My mother has schizophrenia too. I am 22 years old and it has been very difficult. She too is a wonderful mother, but we have many arguments. As a dancer who used to recieve her unconditional love, I remember fondly that attentin that I recieved from her when I was younger, but things are different now. She doesn't like to talk to me, but I need her desparately. Maybe I am just wanting her to fulfill a role that she can never fill. I feel like I used to constantly look for a mother to replace her, but nothing was good enough. And sadly to say, nothing else is better than your true mother. I know becuase I have tried many different things to replace her lack of unconditional support. Money, food, boyfriends, and even my beloved dance.
Please Help Me,

Posted by: Emily Morrow at January 27, 2007 12:37 AM

I have a sister with this mental disorder, and she has a daughter which I have custody of. I can't begin to tell you the level of frustration, and hopelessness that I feel. To make matters worst the guy she is with is causing more problems he may possibly be the father of my niece. My advise is to hang in there, and if you are are someone who is spiritual pray and pray a lot otherwise find an outlet for help. Talk to professional people who can give you great advise, and help feel what your feeling, and do lot of exercises. Drink lot of water, and incorporate healthy eating in your life.

Posted by: Mriam at November 18, 2007 02:11 PM

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