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Language Skills of Children and Youth with Schizophrenia: A Meta-Analysis
Laura Griffith, Depts. of Psychology, Criminal Justice, & History, with Dr. Jason Chow, VCU School of Education
Schizophrenia is a severe psychological disorder that remains difficult to understand. Since the presentation of the disorder can vary widely from person to person, there is much debate about the exact nature and cause of the disorder. Some researchers and clinicians prioritize certain symptoms above others, leading to multiple viewpoints on exactly what type of disorder schizophrenia is. In spite of these differences, one commonality among many researchers is the hope to find answers and possibly interventions and treatments by studying the prodromal phase of the disease. Additionally, there has been growing interest in childhood-onset schizophrenia, which does not always receive as much attention as its more common adult-onset counterpart. Cognitive deficits, including problems with language development, appear to be common among youths at clinical high risk (CHR) for or diagnosed with schizophrenia. Thus, the purpose of this meta-analysis was to examine the language skills of children with childhood-onset schizophrenia or children who are CHR. The present systematic review and meta-analysis included quantitative studies that report language skills of either childhood-onset schizophrenia patients or CHR participants under the age of 18. We included studies that reported data from expressive, receptive, and pragmatic language assessments. We excluded studies if the participant samples included individuals with comorbid disorders, such as autism spectrum disorder. We obtained articles from an iterative search process of PubMed, ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, and PsycINFO databases. We used random-effects meta-analysis to estimate the average core language scores of early-onset schizophrenia and CHR children and youth. We applied robust-variance estimation to account for within-study dependency. We also explored the extent that child-level factors as well as type of language measure predicted language scores. After a comprehensive and systematic review of the literature, the present study includes data from 23reports. Preliminary analyses suggest that language scores in this sample are significantly lower than typical children. The broader goal of this meta-analysis is to determine the patterns of language development in CHR children and children with schizophrenia, as well as to determine if any language disorders could be predictive of patient prognosis. Identifying risk factors and early warning signs of schizophrenia is crucial to providing the most effective treatment possible. Also, understanding common cognitive symptoms in children who have already been diagnosed can help clinicians to create more tailored treatment plans to alleviate all aspects of the disorder.
Jason Chow, Ph.D.
Virginia Commonwealth University. Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program
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