Linguistic performance in children who develop schizophrenia in adult life. Evidence for normal syntactic ability
Background: Less syntactically complex speech in patients with schizophrenia has been thought to represent a premorbid dysfunction, of possible prognostic value and indicative of a neurodevelopmental origin for schizophrenia. Method: Narratives written at age II by children who then developed psychiatric disorders in adult life (using PSE CATEGO diagnoses), especially schizophrenia, were compared with matched controls on syntactic complexity, syntactic maturity, grammatical deviance and spelling ability. Results: Children who later developed either schizophrenia, affective psychosis or a neurotic type of disorder in adulthood did not differ from normal controls on any of the measures of syntactic production, grammatical errors or spelling. Conclusions: It is probable that previous reports of reduced syntactic complexity in schizophrenic speech are a consequence of being in a psychotic state and do not represent a premorbid deficit.