So I know Jenn already looked at the possibility of childhood schizophrenia, and I was also interested in this. So I decided to see what I could find. The first thing I found was at this website: http://www.schizophrenia.com/family/childsz.htm . I don’t know how reliable of a source it is, but it actually states that childhood onset of schizophrenia actually occurs and is a mental disorder seen in children. They report the prevalence rate being 1 out of 40,000 children who get it, compared to 1 in 100 adults who are diagnosed with schizophrenia. The children experience the same symptoms as do the adults, such as hallucinations, delusions, social withdrawal, flattened emotions, increased risk of suicide, and loss of social and personal care skills. It appears that it is harder to diagnose in children, as it is often misdiagnosed as autism or another developmental skill disability. They also state that researchers are developing more advanced anti-psychotics for schizophrenic children as their prognosis tends to be worse than adults.
It appears that childhood schizophrenia could be a result of a genetic mutation because it appears to have occurred almost since birth. It is hard to diagnose during infancy as the child is unable to communicate. But looking at home videos, such as the video of Jani that Jenn posted (here it is if you would like to watch it again: Childhood Schizophrenia), it looks like she was born with schizophrenia or the ability to see things that were never there. In this sense it may not be correct to term it schizophrenia, as schizophrenia is a deficit in perceptions of reality, whereas the childhood schizophrenia may be something they are actually born with.
I looked up this paper entitled “Double-blind comparison of first-and second-generation antipsychotics in early-onset Schizophrenia and Schizo-affective disorder: Findings from the treatment of early-onset Schizophrenia spectrum disorders (TEOSS) study” (Sikich et al., 2008). This looked at children diagnosed with Early-Onset Schizophrenia (primarily focused on children ages 8-16) and how they responded to typical (molindone) and atypical (olanzapine and risperidone) drugs. This study showed that in terms of treating children with schizophrenia, atypical drugs did not have a superior effect over typical drugs. I personally think this suggests that there may be a slightly different mechanism/pathway that is disrupted in children diagnosed with “schizophrenia”. Another article by Asarnow & Kernan (2008) titled “Childhood schizophrenia” also looks at the definition and suggestions of how childhood schizophrenia actually develops. One hypothesis is that it is an accelerated mode of schizophrenia. They build this off of Weinberger’s (1987) hypothesis that schizophrenia is results from a brain lesion in early childhood/infancy which only becomes apparent later in life (late teens, early twenties). I don’t think this is very accurate considering that there is a strong wealth of research acknowledging that genetics plays a role in developing schizophrenia and that there is some genetic predisposition. Nevertheless, in childhood schizophrenia, perhaps there is no genetic component, and that it is just a mutation in a gene during development?
In my final research attempt, I found an article by Sporn et al. (2004) that suggests that 22q11 deletion of a gene plays an important role in the onset of childhood schizophrenia. They are still unclear in how this is effective or what role this gene plays in triggering schizophrenia, but it has been noted that it may account as a genetic component to childhood schizophrenia.