Development and Psychopathology

Regular Articles

Neurodevelopmental factors associated with schizotypal symptoms among adolescents at risk for schizophrenia

Sydney L. Hansa1 c1, Judith G. Auerbacha2, Keith H. Nuechterleina3, Robert F. Asarnowa3, Joan Asarnowa3, Benedict Styra4 and Joseph Marcusa1

a1 University of Chicago

a2 Ben Gurion University Centre for Advanced Study at the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters

a3 University of California, Los Angeles

a4 Maccabi Health Services, Israel


Schizophrenia has come to be viewed as a neurodevelopmental disorder that is characterized by genetic vulnerability, stressors during the prenatal period that may be marked by minor physical anomalies and neurobehavioral deficits that emerge in early development. Less is known about the neurodevelopmental origins of schizotypal personality symptoms. The present study examines schizotypal symptoms in Israeli adolescents (mean age = 16.79 years) who have not yet reached the developmental period during which first schizophrenic episode is most likely to emerge: 39 adolescent offspring of parents with schizophrenia, 39 offspring of parents with other psychiatric disorders, and 36 offspring of parents with no history of mental illness. The Semi-Structured Kiddie Interview for Personality Syndromes was used to assess cognitive–perceptual, interpersonal, and disorganized schizotypal symptoms. Interpersonal schizotypal symptoms were more prevalent in the schizophrenia offspring group than in the no-mental-illness offspring group. Among the schizophrenia offspring group, interpersonal, but not cognitive–perceptual, schizotypal symptoms were associated with minor physical anomalies, fine motor dyscoordination, and deficits in executive functioning during adolescence. Among young people whose parents did not have schizophrenia, cognitive–perceptual schizotypal symptoms were correlated with deficits in executive functioning. Adolescent schizotypal symptoms were associated with neurobehavioral symptoms measured during middle childhood in a subgroup of the sample that had been assessed prospectively. Finally, young people who had genetic risk for schizophrenia, minor physical anomalies, and neurobehavioral signs together were at markedly increased risk for symptoms of interpersonal schizotypal symptoms, compared to young people with one or none of these risk factors.


c1 Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Sydney Hans, School of Social Service Administration, University of Chicago, 969 East 60th Street, Chicago, IL 60637; E-mail:


The adolescent data collection for this study was supported by Grant R01 MH45208 from the National Institute of Mental Health. Data at the adolescent follow-up were collected by Miriam Barasch, Nomi Ban, Batya Aloni, Slava Feinstein, Sharon Arnon, Nurit Kaveh, Nili Mor, and Gil Amihai; the database was managed by Linda Henson. This long-term longitudinal study was the result of more than 30 years of dedication from Joseph Marcus. He is included as an author of this paper, although he passed away before it could be completed.