too surprising that both types of persons may have common elements in their family backgrounds. According to some researchers, one such possible factor is early loss of a parent. Recent reports have linked parental loss with genius (SN: 4/22/78, p. 245) and with psychotherapy-seekers (SN: 1/14/78, p. 21).
Now, three studies published in the July AMERICAN JOURNAL OF ORTHOPSYCHIATRY suggest a possible link between early parental loss and schizophrenia. Researchers Norman F. Watt of the University of Denver and Armand Nicholi Jr. of Harvard Medical School acknowledge that their work comes against a historical backdrop of conflicting study results in this area. But in each of their studies they report that, at least statistically, "premature death of a parent may be a contributing factor in the etiology of schizophrenia."
Moreover, Watt and Nicholi found that the high frequency of parental death among schizophrenics is "not attributable to a genetically-linked tendency toward suicide in parents." in addition, parental death appears to occur earlier in the lives of schizophrenics than in those of other patients studied, and, in two of the reported studies, was most frequent among schizophrenics with predominantly paranoid symptoms.
The researchers studied a total of 1,139 patients, including 185 diagnosed as schizophrenics, from the records of the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health, Harvard University ('psychiatric dropouts") and the Göttingen (Germany) University Psychiatric Clinic. In the combined populations of the three studies, they found an overall parental loss rate among schizophrenics of 23.8 percent, compared with a 14.4 percent rate among all patients and about 10 percent among random nonpatient controls in two of the studies.
They warn, however, that "death of a parent is but a single event