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Early and Delayed Motherhood Linked to Schizophrenia Risk

Credit: Monkey Business

Credit: Monkey Business

By Sang Hong Lee

A mother’s age when she gives birth is associated with her child’s likelihood of developing schizophrenia, but is this because psychosocial factors associated with the mother's age affect her child's risk, or because women with a higher genetic risk for schizophrenia are more likely to have their first child at an early or late age?

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It’s well-known that the age of a child’s parents is a risk factor for a range of mental health issues in children, including common psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia. The age of the father has received the most attention, with risk to children widely assumed to be explained by mutations that occur more frequently in older fathers’ DNA, although other studies question this belief.

There is also new evidence that children of both younger and older mothers may develop psychosis more regularly. A 2014 investigation published in JAMA Psychiatry (http://tinyurl.com/zoukjfv) performed a comprehensive analysis using family data extracted from the Danish Psychiatric Central Register, and reported a higher risk of schizophrenia in children of younger and older mothers compared with those of intermediate age (25–29 years). When the study accounted for the age of the father it found that the likelihood of schizophrenia in children was strongest in mothers younger than 25.

However, these epidemiological observations cannot dissect cause from consequence. It’s unclear if the risk of schizophrenia in children is because of psychological, lifestyle or ageing factors associated with a mother’s age or if women at higher risk for schizophrenia generally have their first child at an earlier or...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.