November 21, 2006

Broken Homes Linked to Increased Risk of Psychosis, Schizophrenia

People from broken homes (i.e., divorced or separated parents) may be at a significantly greater risk to develop psychotic illnesses such as schizophrenia, new research out of the UK suggests. In one study, university researchers discovered that separation from one or both parents for more than a year before the age of 16, as a consequence of family breakdown, was associated with a 2.5 fold (250%) increased risk of developing psychosis in adulthood. (Note: researchers aren't, we believe, suggesting that it is the act of divorce or separation that is increasing the risk for children of psychosis, rather the divorce or separation is a sign of high levels of stress in the household (or experienced by the child). Independently, other studies indicate that lower stress has been linked to decreased risk of psychosis).

In another research paper, schizophrenia was nine times more common in people from African Caribbean origin, and six times more common in people from black African origin than in the white British population. (There is a high percentage of broken homes in the aforementioned high risk population groups).

Researchers said their findings suggest the illnesses are not simply brain diseases, but linked to factors such as social adversity. This is consistent with the leading theory on the cause of schizophrenia being a result of a combination of genetic or biological susceptibility, and environmental factors such as stress that contribute to risk, or trigger, the brain disorder.

"However, Dr. Morgan said more work was needed to fully understand how specific types of early social adversity might interact with pyschological and biological factors to cause psychosis."

Professor Robin Murray, who also worked on the research, said: "For the last 30 years the traditional view has been that psychosis is largely a genetic brain disease, and most psychiatrists have thrown out the view that social factors can have a major impact."

"These findings suggest it is not just a brain disease, and that social factors can also contribute to the onset of illness."

Read Full Story: Broken home linked to psychosis (BBC News)

Journal Article Abstract: Incidence of schizophrenia and other psychoses in ethnic minority groups:results from the MRC AESOP Study, Psychological Medicine, Volume 36, Issue 11, November 2006, pp 1541-1550

Parental separation, loss and psychosis in different ethnic groups: a case-control study (Craig Morgan, et al). Psychological Medicine, Volume 36, Issue 11, November 2006

Note - the original research papers are available for free downloads on this page if you are interested (we're not sure how long they will be available).

The AESOP Study - on which these papers are based.

Additional In-depth Information:

Tactics for Preventing Schizophrenia

Causes and Prevention of Schizophrenia

A Healthy Family Social Environment May Reduce Schizophrenia Risk by 86% for High Genetic Risk Groups

Childcare, Genetics, Epigenetics and Schizophrenia

Lower Level of Stress for Child while growing up May Significantly Lower Schizophrenia Risk

Social Stress Has Link to Psychotic Disorders

Social Adversity during Childhood increases Schizophrenia Risk

Improving Baby Mental Health - New Program for Parents

Trauma Link to Schizophrenia is Strengthened by New Research


Here is some irony. My mother with SZ came from a wealthy, stable, LOVING home with minimal stress. She never-the-less came down with SZ resulting in immense stress and a BROKEN home for her 4 children, none of whom developed schizophrenia. Each of them in turn married and brought up children in loving STABLE stress-free homes only to have some of THOSE children once again come down with SZ-related illnesses.

Net result is of the 5 females we know with SZ & SZ-A, ALL came from stable loving, trauma-free homes.

Then we read articles saying it is the BROKEN homes linked to SZ. That's ironic.

Posted by: njw at November 24, 2006 12:22 PM

kinda makes the broken home thing sound a bit odd, doesn't it. :)

Posted by: slc2 at November 28, 2006 01:13 PM

I would expect, then, that rates of schizophrenia would have increased with rising divorce rates (70s on). The only
info on sz rates I found is in the article to follow:
Also, especially following news on enviornmental toxins (neurotoxins) reported on this site, it would be interesting to know more about the economic status of people in the study. It seems that if you live near a superfund site in the US, you are likely poor and a minority. To follow is the only I could find on the subject:
Here is a citation on rates of STDs in African carribean and non-carribean populations in the UK. Prenatal exposure to STDs have also been implicated in schizophrenia:
I wish this study had attempted to uncover more confounding factors, icluding season of birth, etc.

Posted by: flooby at November 30, 2006 07:14 AM

there isn't any reason to me why neurotoxins or divorce would affect the rates of schizophrenia.

the studies that find 'broken homes' increase the rate of schizophrenia are, for me, highly suspect. there is no indication that the broken home has anything to do with causing schizophrenia. in fact, it may be the RESULT of schizophrenia - in the parents, or even in the offspring (chronic illness in offspring is positively associated with divorce), but fact is, with divorce rates very high among ALL families, it's hard to prove it has anything to do with causing schizophrenia. it is an assumption that it does, nothing more.

Posted by: slc2 at November 30, 2006 07:33 AM

Frankly, I agree with you. The first study shows falling schizophrenia rates in
Europe, 60's on. If divorce increases risk of sch., I would expect rates to rise
with divorce rates. Secondly, given the phenomenon of a first diagnosis of ADD/
ADHD etc. in people who go on to develop schiz. ( a family stressor that may contribute to family breakdown) the study fails to explore any pre-existing factors that contribute to divorce. I also think that if enviornmental-social
stressors are to be examined, we need a greater sense of the ENTIRE enviornment.
If I understand, schiz. rates are higher in lower socioeconomic groups. So I think ALL potential factors should be explored (hence, toxins). I was rather disappointed in this study; I think it reached its conclusions too "easily".
In my experience, our son's prodrome had a HUGE effect on the family unit.
I agree; MI prodromal or full blown, has a huge negative effect on the family.
With stabilization of our ill family member, our family as a whole has recovered.

Posted by: flooby at November 30, 2006 09:00 AM

well i also take trileptal and everyone says that it will help you and what i get from it is nothing. it dosent help me at all and i was wondering if someone would help me and if i can bring up things to my doctor?

Well thanks


Posted by: Mollie at November 30, 2006 10:50 AM

Well i am having a HELL of a time trying to put my life back to it's normal self. so far i have been to a psychiatric facility down in Rochester (Havenwyck Hospital) and i can tell you this, it is not fun for people who should not be there. well i was there and it is alot better than staying at home. i loved it there and alot of people thought the same. they put me on a medication called trileptal and it is not wirking very well. well anyways my dad is a ery violent person. when i do something that he dosent like he would slam me up aginst the wall orhe would hit me and it once was so bad that i had to go to the hospital and i broke one of my ribs. i wanted to kill my dad but i knew i couldnt. i didnot like him, i would tell him that i hated him and that i was going to kill him and i ment evry bit of it. that was a mistake and now they put me on amedication called adderall and it put me in a hospital. and i dont like it at hime and i need help to calm me and my dad down can anyong help me!


Posted by: Mollie at November 30, 2006 11:11 AM

Mollie, Get social services involved so that if there is abuse going on they can investigate and proceed accordingly.

Posted by: Uncle Sam at December 2, 2006 09:04 AM

My dad left when i was 1 because of my mothers sz i think. She says it's because he drank too much. Is the broken home a result of the illness or a contributary factor? I don't know but do i get a prize if i don't develop sz? I feel i should because the odds are stacked against me.

Good luck Molly. Try social services.

Posted by: G at January 8, 2007 01:49 AM

I just published a book on this topic. Broken Families Broken Homes check it out at

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