Childhood Experiences and Current Adjustment of Offspring of Indigent Patients With Schizophrenia

Caton, Carol L. M.; Cournos, Francine; Felix, Alan; Wyatt, Richard Jed

OBJECTIVE: This study reports the childhood experiences, current life situation and level of adjustment, and prior mental health service use of offspring of indigent people with schizophrenia. METHODS: Sixty-eight patient-parents were asked for consent for researchers to contact their adolescent and adult offspring. Thirty-nine consenting offspring were interviewed with an assessment battery that included measures of current occupational and social functioning, psychiatric status, and mental health service use. RESULTS: Interviewed offspring were raised in an average of three different settings from birth to 18 years of age. Relatives, particularly grandparents and aunts, were more likely to provide surrogate parenting than were nonkin foster parents and were more significant nurturing figures than biological parents. The typical offspring had a high school diploma, was gainfully employed, and was involved with a spouse or household partner or had a close friend. Twenty-three of the 39 offspring had children, and most were raising their children alone. Ten offspring had a diagnosis of major depression, schizoaffective disorder, or drug or alcohol abuse, but none had a diagnosis of schizophrenia. Four of the ten offspring with a psychiatric diagnosis had never been treated. CONCLUSIONS: Findings underscore the need for long-term studies of families with a parent who is a psychiatric patient. Rehabilitation efforts should include extended family who play a critical role in raising offspring during periods when patient-parents are unable to do so. Offspring should be included in efforts to educate families about schizophrenia.


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Psychiatric Services

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September 26, 2017