Cognitive deficits represent a major burden of neuropsychiatric disorders and result in part from abnormal communication within hippocampal–prefrontal circuits. While it has been hypothesized that this network dysfunction arises during development, long before the first clinical symptoms, experimental evidence is still missing. Here, we show that pre-juvenile mice mimicking genetic and environmental risk factors of disease (dual-hit GE mice) have poorer recognition memory that correlates with augmented coupling by synchrony and stronger directed interactions between prefrontal cortex and hippocampus. The network dysfunction emerges already during neonatal development, yet it initially consists in a diminished hippocampal theta drive and consequently, a weaker and disorganized entrainment of local prefrontal circuits in discontinuous oscillatory activity in dual-hit GE mice when compared with controls. Thus, impaired maturation of functional communication within hippocampal–prefrontal networks switching from hypo- to hyper-coupling may represent a mechanism underlying the pathophysiology of cognitive deficits in neuropsychiatric disorders.