February 06, 2007

Low Birth Weight And Childhood Abuse Linked To Psychological Problems Later In Life

Past research studies have suggested that both low birth weight and childhood abuse/trauma increases risk for schizophrenia later in life.

A new study by Mount Sinai School of Medicine (MSSM) which covers some of the same issues (but doesn't focus specifically on schizophrenia) has found that children born with low birth weight (LBW) who suffered child abuse are substantially more likely to develop psychological problems such as depression and social dysfunction in adolescence and adulthood. The study, appearing in the February 5, 2007, issue of The Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine, is the first to investigate the possible interaction between LBW and later adversity.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the percentage of infants born LBW (less than 2,500 grams) has risen 16 percent since 1990. LBW is a major public health problem in the United States, contributing substantially to both infant mortality and to childhood physical impairment.

To examine the possible conjoined effects of LBW and child abuse on adaptation and on the development of psychiatric and medical problems, researchers looked at data from the John Hopkins Collaborative Perinatal Study, an epidemiologic study that followed random sample of mothers and their children from pregnancy for more than 30 years. They compared outcomes in the transition to adulthood among four groups of children: those with LBW and childhood abuse, those with LBW alone, those with childhood abuse alone and those with neither.

The researchers found that participants with both LBW and subsequent child abuse, relative to those with neither risk, were at a substantially elevated risk of psychological problems: a 10-fold for depression; a nearly 9-fold for social dysfunction and an over 4-fold for somatization. However, they were not at an elevated risk for medical problems in adulthood. Those exposed to child abuse were more likely to report delinquency, school suspension, repeating grades during adolescence and impaired well-being in adulthood, regardless of LBW status. For those with LBW alone, the prevalence of those problems was comparable to that of those without either risk factor.

"The number of children born with low birth weight is steadily increasing in the country," said Yoko Nomura, Ph.D., M.P.H, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and lead investigator of this study. " These findings suggest children faced with the adversity of low birth weight and subsequent child abuse had substantially poorer outcomes than children facing either adversity alone in various areas of their life."

"The good news is by offering preventative mental health services to mothers with LBW, and monitoring LBW children to provide early intervention, together we can protect such children from subsequent adversity such as abuse," noted Claude M. Chemtob, Ph.D., Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics and one of the study investigators.

The study was supported by grants from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIHM) and the Erna Reich Fund of the UJA Federation of New York, and a Young Investigator Award from the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression (NARSAD).

Source: The Mount Sinai Hospital / Mount Sinai School of Medicine

Additional Coverage:
Early-Life Factors Raise Risks for Adult Mental Woes (Washington Post)

Trouble Looms for Tiny Infants Abused in Childhood

Related Reading: Low Birth Weight Infants May Have Increased Risk for Schizophrenia

Trauma Link to Schizophrenia is Strengthened by New Research

Childhood Emotional Abuse, Emotional Neglect and Schizophrenia

Child Abuse and Mental Illness - Nature and Nurture

Schizophrenia Usually Caused by Child Abuse? Proof Lacking

Causes and Preventative Approaches to Schizophrenia


This is talking about psychological problems. Schizophrenia is not a psychological problem. I am confused. What does this have to do with us?

Posted by: Philip at February 7, 2007 02:16 PM

Hi Philip,

Research suggests that you can look at schizophrenia both from a psychological perspective as well as a biological perspective - and infact they may be the same thing. I recommend you review these blog postings on related topics:

Schizophenia - psychological or biological?

CBT for Schizophenia

Posted by: szadmin at February 12, 2007 01:27 PM

These are more like questions based on information, than comments. I hope that's okay.

The man I've been dating for the past two years has shizophrenia and I've been researching it in hopes of saving our relationship. Maybe if I better understand it I can get around this time we're going through and still be with him when he feels better; normally he's not so tired and distracted. He's just not himself lately and I was wondering if I should ride this out for a couple more weeks and hope that he hasn't dumped me by then, or is there a way to pull someone out of their shell, remind them that they're not being themselves, and snap them back to reality for a minute?
I used to be able to grab his attention with something he enjoys and then persuade or finess my way back into his heart, but now he thinks that I'm smothering him even when I give him numerous days alone to do whatever makes him happy. To be honest, I actually get lonely waiting for him to put himself back together.
I also have another question? Do all people with this disorder have to get their way all the time or do you think it's just this one? In one of his emails he sent to me he wrote this one line: I am king first, then husband, then partner and, insomuch, my duty is presented.
If you know the answers, or know where to find them, could you let me know? Thanks

Posted by: samantha at April 21, 2007 05:14 PM

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