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Characterization of premorbid functioning during childhood in patients with deficit vs. non-deficit schizophrenia and in their healthy siblings

Schizophrenia Research, Volume 174, Issue 1-3, July 2016, Pages 172 - 176


Impaired premorbid adjustment has been reported in patients with schizophrenia, generally in association with unfavorable aspects of the illness (e.g., poor outcome and severe negative symptoms). Several studies attempted to define the domains of premorbid dysfunction associated with negative symptoms and poor outcome; however, most of them assessed broadly defined negative symptoms. The present study was aimed to characterize premorbid functioning in a group of patients with deficit schizophrenia (DS), characterized by the presence of at least two primary and persistent negative symptoms (PPNS), and one of patients with a diagnosis of schizophrenia who did not meet criteria for DS (NDS).

The presence of emotional/behavioral problems during childhood was investigated using the Childhood Behavior Checklist (CBCL) in both patient groups and in their respective healthy siblings. The Premorbid Adjustment Scale (PAS) was also used to assess premorbid functioning during childhood in the two patient groups. PPNS were also treated as a continuous variable and correlated with the indices of premorbid functioning regardless the DS/NDS categorization.

DS patients, as compared to NDS, showed higher scores on the CBCL subscale “Withdrawn”. Both DS and NDS patients showed, as compared to their healthy siblings, a greater impairment on almost all CBCL subscales. PAS findings revealed that DS patients had poorer premorbid adjustment than NDS. No significant correlation between premorbid functioning and PPNS was observed.

These findings support the hypothesis that DS has a different developmental trajectory with respect to NDS, and that premorbid adjustment is one of the essential aspects of its characterization.

Keywords: Schizophrenia, Primary negative symptoms, Childhood behavior, Premorbid functioning.


a Department of Psychiatry, University of Naples SUN, Italy

b Eugenio Medea Scientific Institute, Child Psychiatry Department, Bosisio Parini, LC, Italy

c Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, Psychiatric Clinic, University of Pisa, Italy

d Institute of Experimental Medicine-Section of Psychiatry, University of L'Aquila, Italy

e Department of Clinical and Experimental Sciences, University of Brescia, Italy

Corresponding author at: Department of Psychiatry, University of Naples SUN, Largo Madonna delle Grazie, 80138 Naples, Italy.