Letter: Schizophrenia no cause for guilt

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Schizophrenia no cause for guilt

Sir: You report (1 November) on research based at the University of Oulu in Finland. A long-term study of over 12,000 people beginning before their birth showed that children born after unwanted pregnancies were at slightly increased risk of schizophrenia in adult life.

The scientific report of this work stressed that the meaning of this curious finding is obscure. Mothers may have had a variety of reasons for not wishing to be pregnant. These include suffering themselves from illnesses which increase the risk of schizophrenia in their offspring, probably by subtle effects on the developing brain. This Finnish study has demonstrated that early physical illness in the newborn may also have this effect; this may be preventable.

Several parents of people with schizophrenia have contacted me, feeling upset and guilty. The inference they drew from your report was that their own children must have been unwanted and unloved. In fact, the research showed quite the contrary; most people with schizophrenia were wanted babies.

I spend a great deal of time helping relatives of those with this distressing and puzzling brain illness. The seeds of schizophrenia may sometimes be sown early in life, but not by parents; it is not their fault.


University of Nottingham