Language, social responsiveness, and adaptive social functioning deficits appear to be associated with familial high risk for schizophrenia (FHR-SZ) but not with familial high risk for bipolar disorder (FHR-BP) in the early developmental phase. The multisite, population-based Danish High-Risk and Resilience Study VIA7 was conducted in a cohort of 7-year-old children for whom data were extracted from Danish registries. Results of the analysis were published in the journal Schizophrenia Bulletin.

The investigators sought to characterize the social cognition, language, and social behavior as potentially shared vulnerability markers in children at FHR-SZ and children at FHR-BP, in an effort to design preventive interventions. A stratified sample of 522 children 7 years of age, with 1 or 2 biologic parents diagnosed with a schizophrenia spectrum psychosis or a bipolar disorder, along with children with biologic parents not diagnosed with either of the 2 disorders, were enrolled in the cohort. The VIA7 cohort consisted of 202 children at FHR-SZ (girls: 46.0%), 120 children at FHR-BP (girls: 46.7%), and 200 population-based controls (girls: 46.5%).

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Results of the study showed that children in the FHR-SZ group exhibited significant deficits in language (receptive: P =.006; pragmatic: P <.001), social responsiveness (P < .001), and adaptive social functioning (P <.001) compared with controls. Moreover, when compared with those in the FHR-BP group, children in the FHR-SZ group performed significantly poorer on tests of adaptive social functioning (P =.007). Additionally, both FHR-SZ children and FHR-BP children demonstrated no significant cognitive impairments compared with controls.

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The investigators concluded that it is important for clinicians and school professionals to pay particular attention to those children at FHR-SZ who present with deviations in their early neurodevelopment of language and social responsiveness, or with adaptive social functioning impairments, as these deviations might potentially disturb their quality of life and/or academic performance. Future studies are warranted that characterize the maturational development of the multidimensional aspects of social cognitive functioning in those offspring at FHR-SZ and FHR-BP.


Christiani CJ, Jepsen JRM, Thorup A, et al. Social cognition, language, and social behavior in 7-year-old children at familial high-risk of developing schizophrenia or bipolar disorder: the Danish High Risk and Resilience Study VIA 7—a population-based cohort study [published online March 10, 2019]. Schizophr Bull. doi:10.1093/schbul/sbz001