Schizophrenia: Early etiological factors, prognosis and family burden

We are studying the possible aetiological role of prenatal underdevelopment and non-optimal conditions around birth in schizophrenia. Other severe psychiatric diseases like bipolar disorder, infantile autism, anorexia nervosa and ADHD are also in focus in order to explore specificity of findings.

Project description

This project is funded with a 6-year program support from Swedish Research Council for Working Life and Social Research. The "fetal growth hypothesis" for schizophrenia is tested to disentangle fetal environmental hazards, maternal life style/social disadvantage and genetic liability. For this purpose our research group uses information from population-based Swedish Registers (the Medical Birth Register, the Inpatient Register, the Twin Register and the Multi Generation Register), unit medical records, and interviews, to carry out nation-wide epidemiological studies, using designs that permits simultaneously evaluation of maternal and paternal genetic and environmental influences. We are studying risks of preterm birth, fetal growth, stillbirth, and infant death among offspring to mothers and/or fathers with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder after controlling for social characteristics and maternal smoking during pregnancy and risk factors for post-partum psychoses. A separate, but related issue is to improve our understanding of how healthy co-twins and siblings to persons with schizophrenia perceive and cope with increased familiar risks and view ethically important aspects of research participation. Five doctorate students have been using data and resources within this project (Emma Nilsson, PhD 2006; Gabriella Stålberg, Licentiate 2004; Anna Svensson PhD 2009; James MacCabe; Ben Yip, PhD 2008).

Project leader

Christina Hultman

Main financing: Swedish Research Council for Working Life and Social Research (FAS); Swedish Research Council


Department of Psychological Medicine, Institute of Psychiatry and King's College, London: Robin M. Murray, James MacCabe, Chiara Nosarti, Avi Reichenberg

Department of Genetics, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill: Pat Sullivan

Department of Neuroscience, Psychiatry, Uppsala University: Frits-Axel Wiesel, Björn Nilsson

Department of Sociology, Uppsala University: Hedvig Ekerwald

Karolinska Institutet: Sven Cnattingius, Pär Sparén, Paul Lichtenstein, Yudi Pawitan, Sven Sandin,

Centre of Public Health Sciences, University of Iceland: Unnur Valdimarsdottir