Clinical Features and Outcome of Child and Adolescent Schizophrenia

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Subjects admitted 12 months or more previously to two child and adolescent psychiatric units in New Zealand and the United States with a diagnosis of nonorganic, nonautistic psychosis, were contacted and those who received a DSM-III-R diagnosis of schizophrenia were studied (n = 33 [New Zealand] and n = 24 [United States]). Premorbid and first-episode data were obtained from the admission record using global clinical measures of moderate reliability, outcome diagnosis and status by interviews, and professional and family reports. Mean ages at onset were 13.9 (New Zealand) and 15.6 (United States). Premorbid and clinical features resembled those in adult schizophrenia, though there were probable quantitative differences. At outcome (mean interval = 4 years) few subjects were symptom-free or independent, and mean global assessment of functioning had fallen from 55 to 40. Outcome was much worse in schizophrenia than bipolar disorder. Despite a 59 percent attrition rate and higher rates of initial misdiagnosis in the United States, and some demographic differences, New Zealand and United States samples resembled each other clinically and in outcome. Initial misdiagnosis of bipolar disorder as schizophrenia was not due to minimizing mood symptoms, which were common in both disorders. Within this age range (mostly 11–17), age at onset had only minor effects. Outcome was best predicted by premorbid personality.

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