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Research Center

Genes and Schizophrenia

05/23/2003

Question:

A lot of people in my husband's family suffer from schizophrenia. He is unaffected. What are the chances of our children developing the disease?

Answer:

People have known for a long time that schizophrenia runs in families. In general the chance that someone in the general public with no family history to develop schizophrenia is about 1 percent. However, people who have a close relative with schizophrenia are more likely to develop the disorder than are people who have no relatives with the illness. For example, research has shown that if an identical twin (monozygotic twin) has schizophrenia, there is a 40 to 50 percent that the other twin will also develop schizophrenia. Research from family studies suggests that a child whose parent has schizophrenia would have about a 10-15 percent chance of developing the disorder. If the child`s parents do not have the disorder but have other relatives affected, then the risk would go down even further, to about 3-5 chance. Researchers are looking for genes that may be involved in the development of schizophrenia. At this time there is no single gene known to cause the disorder. It is most likely due to multiple genes and environmental factors that lead to a predisposition to develop schizophrenia. However, they do not understood how the genetic predisposition is passed on through families. And, we cannot accurately predict whether any one given person will or will not develop schizophrenia. In your family, the chance that any of your children will develop schizophrenia is probably above the general population risk of 1% because of their father`s family history, but less than the 10-15 % chance since their father does not have the disorder. This would be an excellent question to ask a genetic counselor or geneticist who would do a detailed family history and then discuss the risks with you. You can locate a genetics center near you at the National Society of Genetic Counselors` website below. Also, the National Institute for Mental Health at NIH as an excellent website (below) with information about schizophrenia that may be helpful. 

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Response by:

Anne   Matthews, RN, PhD Anne Matthews, RN, PhD
Associate Professor of Genetics
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University