Schizophrenia Prevention - Risk Reduction Approaches

Note - for people outside the USA who cannot obtain or afford the books listed below, you may, in many cases, be able to download these books and interviews (or audio books) for free via the emule private file sharing network. To access this network (illegal, in the US) - go to the emule web site, and download the latest "Installer" version of software for your PC, then do searches in the "name" field - on for key words in the title of the book or the author's last name. Where it says "Type" - specify "document", "archive" and "audio" files, in three different searches for each item you're looking for. Specify the "method" to be "global servers". Most of the files being shared on these networks are being made available by millions of high school and university students (and others) around the world. While we have heard that some industry organizations are taking legal action against students who have downloaded music via the emule network, we have not heard of any actions against people who download books and audio books. If you need help in understanding how to use emule - go to the help section of the emule web site. To open .rar files - use the WinRAR application available for download from here.

Activities During Pregnancy to Maximize Mental Health of the Child - Following is a list of pregnancy-related points that suggested different ways in which schizophrenia risk for a child might be lowered by actions taken before and during pregnancy.Research suggests that the more of these actions that can be taken, the lower the potential risk for schizophrenia for the child.

Research completed during the past decade is strongly suggesting that key risk factors, or causal factors, for schizophrenia are the nutritional and hormonal (e.g. stress hormones and immune responses to infections) conditions in the womb during pregnancy. Because of this, pregnancy is a very important time to make sure a woman's nutritional and emotional needs are adequately met.

Pregnant women must be sure to get enough of the key vitamins for the child's healthy brain development

Deficiencies in some key nutrients during pregnancy have been linked to significantly increased risk of schizophrenia in the children. It is believed that there are some key nutrients that contribute to building a healthy brain during pregnancy. Be sure to take the recommended levels of Vitamin D, folic acid (also called Folate), Choline, and iron, as well as Omega 3 DHAand Omega 6 Fatty Acids (as well as the other vitamins typically seen in a prenatal vitamin. To be most effective, recent folic acid research suggests that folic acid should be taken for the year before pregnancy to prevent developmental defects and premature birth (which results in low birth-weight). The simplest and most-recommended way to increase folic acid levels is by taking vitamin supplements starting from one year prior to conception and throughout the pregnancy, but it is also advisable to eat folate-rich foods such as green vegetables (broccoli, spinach), citrus fruits (oranges, limes, grapefruit) or wholemeal products such as 100% whole wheat bread or high-fibre cereals. Despite the proven value of folic acid, a recent March of Dimes survey found that only 32 percent of American women of childbearing age -- including pregnant women -- took folic-acid supplements. The daily recommended amount of folic acid for pregnant women is 600 µg (source) but most prenatal vitamins now have 1000 micrograms and include Vitamin B12, another important prenatal vitamin.

The previously mentioned vitamins have also been identified as reducing risk of brain defects and of low-birth weight babies. Low birth weight is associated with adult psychological distress, researchers report. A study published in the July 2005 issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry found that children born full term but weighing less than 5.5 lbs had a 50% increased risk of psychological distress in later life. Researchers have found a strong link between folic acid levels in the blood and birth weight. For each unit change in folic acid level, the baby's weight increased by 14 per cent. The result emphasises the importance of folic acid in the diet of pregnant women or those trying to have a child. Other studies have indicated that the proper levels of vitamin D in the mother's body during pregnancy is also important for a baby to grow to a healthy weight.

The U.S.-based Institute of Medicine of the National Academies has set 2,000 IU of vitamin D as the daily maximum recommended amount. Some examples of inexpensive Vitamin D supplements: Now Vitamins - Vitamin D 1000 IU, or Solgar Vitamin D 1000 IU. Another good option is a Calcium and Vitamin D mixed vitamin - such as this one: Coral Calcium Plus With Magnesium & Vitamin D. We have no relationship with any of these vendors and so we recommend you shop around and find the best value - using the Google product shopping search engine.

In April, 2007 a new study came out that indicated that supplementation with multivitamins during pregnancy may boost the birth weight of newborns, and "In light of these benefits and the low cost of the supplements, multivitamins should be considered for all pregnant women," wrote lead author Wafaie Fawzi in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The research is of particular importance since an estimated 20 million children worldwide are born with low birth weight, defined as less than 2,500 grams (5.5 pounds), with over 95 per cent these underweight babies born in developing countries. Low birth weight has been linked to higher risks of negative health outcomes, including neonatal and infant mortality, poor growth and cognitive development, and higher risks of chronic diseases later in life, like diabetes and heart disease.

Research also suggests the its is important for a pregnant woman to get at least 250mg of Omega 3 DHA fish oils per day during pregnancy - and up to 3 grams of Omega 3 DHA oils per day has, in preliminary studies, show to be safe and may increase hand-eye coordination and IQ in the child (see this study for more information).

One very interesting new focus of schizophrenia prevention research is the potential for Choline (in the form of Lecithin), when taken during pregnancy, to prevent the biological brain changes that are thought to predispose a person to schizophrenia. Neuroscientists at leading US universities have told us that research strongly suggests that Choline - when taken by a pregnant woman during weeks 20 to 40 of her pregnancy, seems to allow the baby to grow a better, faster, and more resilient brain - and may minimize the risk of a baby being born with a biological predisposition to schizophrenia or autism.

The professor we've talked who have been researching this area for the past 10 years tells us that in his group's research they have found that if the feed Choline to stressed pregnant rats that are biologically predisposed to what they believe is schizophrenia (they look a their brains and see the same type of deformities, sensitivities, etc. that are common in brains of people who have schizophrenia) they find that the babies don't develop the same brain damage seen in rats that don't get the choline. The supplement seems to build a much healthier brain - a brain which isn't as biologically susceptible to the mother's stress which is thought to be an important factor in many cases of schizophrenia (and also autism - the researcher said that they've done the same studies on rats that are predisposed to autism and choline also seems to prevent the risk of autism). One researcher thinks that every woman who is pregnant should take choline (as much as they can - for example 3.5+ grams of Phosphatidyl Choline per day, for pregnant women) - in the form of Lecithin supplements - to help the fetus of the brain develop in a healthy manner. Researchers have told us that Lecithin is very safe for humans to take at high levels and that they have seen no significant toxicities to the vitamin at up to 20 grams per day. Some examples of the types of Choline/Lecithin supplements that the researchers have suggested might be helpful include these general types of products: Lecithin - search via Google Product Shopping search. Note that some companies offer "triple strength" lecithin capsules that have three times the level of Phosphatidyl Choline, or about 400mg per single 1200mg capsule. Therefore - to get 3 grams of choline (Phosphatydyl Choline) you will need to take about 8 capsules per day. Its important to note that because the vitamin industry is not regulated at all and there have been many instances of poor quality, contaminated products sold to consumers - we recommend you stick with recognized leaders in the industry who have rigorous quality standards. Some of these companies include: Twinlab, Now Foods, Schiff. A good website to check on the quality of a vitamin company is - which analyzes vitamins and reports on their contents and if there are any contaminants. They have not yet covered Choline.

New research came out in June, 2008 about the use of Choline to prevent the brain changes that may predispose people to schizophrenia - see the research here - "Permanent improvement in deficient sensory inhibition in DBA/2 mice with increased perinatal choline".

For comprehensive information and background reading on Choline - we recommend you check out - Choline Community.

Recommended Reading:

Vitamin D deficiency During Pregnancy Linked to Increased Risk of Schizophrenia

Vitamin D deficiency widespread during pregnancy, Increasing Schizophrenia Risk in Children

Canadians Advocate Boosting Vitamin D in Pregnancy

Vitamin D Lowers Schizophrenia Risk

Mental Health Starts During Pregnancy: Lower Birth Weight Babies Have More Mental Problems

Low Folic Acid during Pregnancy Increases Schizophrenia Risk?

Essential fatty acid (EFA) deficiency and resulting lipid membrane abnormalities may increase risk of schizophrenia

Essential Fats are Deficient in Brains of Men with Schizophrenia

Oily fish makes 'babies brainier' (BBC)

High-Dose Fish Oil Called Safe During Pregnancy

Fish, Levels of Mercury and Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Low Birth Weight a Risk Factor for Future Schizophrenia

Choline Supplementation During Pregnancy Improves Brain Function throughout lifespan of child, and May Reduce Risk of Schizophrenia

Update on choline research and brain health (March, 2005)

Prenatal Malnutrition Increases Schizophrenia Risk


Do not smoke cigarettes or use other tobacco products during pregnancy, and avoid second hand smoke

Evidence is very strong that cigarette smoke exposure for a mother during pregnancy lowers birth weight and increases the risks of premature birth, attention deficit / hyperactive disorder (ADHD) , and results in lower intelligence (IQ) in the child. Smoking during pregnancy also increases the risk of miscarriage, premature birth, death from SIDS, and learning and behavior disorders.

Recent research also indicates that smoking damages the dopamine system of the brain -- a key factor that is involved in schizophrenia. Because the toxins in cigarette smoke remain in the body for a significant period of time - smoking should be stopped as soon as many months as possible prior to pregnancy.

Of course, all street drugs (cocaine, marijuana / cannabis, etc.) should also be completely avoided during pregnancy. Its important to note that when researchers talk about cigarette smoke exposure - they are talking about all forms of smoke exposure - both from when the mother smokes, as well as "second hand" smoke - from people near the mother. Mothers should avoid all types of cigarette smoke.

Recommended Reading:

Second-hand Smoke Exposure for Pregnant Mothers Linked to Psychological Problems for Children

Tobacco smoke dulls child brains (BBC)

More Help is Needed for Pregnant Women Who Smoke


Avoid all medications (unless doctor prescribed) during the pregnancy

Before you get pregnant (ideally about 3 months prior to pregnancy) you should meet with your doctor and discuss your plans and also discuss any medications you might be on.

Use of Painkillers during Pregnancy linked to 500% greater Risk of Schizophrenia in Children

Pregnant Women Ignore Medication Risks (BBC)


Avoid Dry Cleaning chemicals during the pregnancy (and keep young children away from recently dry cleaned clothes)

Dry Cleaning Chemical Linked to Increased Schizophrenia Risk

It may be good for the baby's brain for the mother to continue moderate exercise after start of pregnancy, if a woman has been active before.

Exercising during pregnancy might have unanticipated benefits – at least in mice, a new study suggests. Pups born to active mums developed bigger brains a few weeks after birth.

The growth was confined to a very specific part of the brain linked with intelligence. Compared with the offspring of inactive mothers (those denied an exercise wheel) pups born to active mothers typically developed 40% more cells in the hippocampus, the area of the brain vital for learning and memory. Read the full story: Do active mums produce brainier babies?

Expectant mothers are cautioned about exercising beyond their established limits or in conditions such as hot weather or high altitudes that they're not accustomed to. Both can stress the fetus by depriving it of needed oxygen.

Related research: Running in pregnancy transiently increases postnatal hippocampal neurogenesis in the offspring


Test for risk of RH blood incompatibility between mother and child, late during the pregnancy or after the pregnancy - Medical professionals (doctors) do this by checking the maternal and paternal blood types to determine if you might be at risk for Rh incompatibility (i.e., if the mother is Rh negative, and the father is Rh positive, then offspring may be Rh positive and at risk for Rh incompatibility).  If it's determined that the mother is Rh negative, then theoretically, the Rh negative woman is supposed to receive RhoGAM (immunoglobulin that prevents the maternal immune response to Rh+ blood) late in the pregnancy, and definitely after the delivery.  Hemolytic disease of the newborn (potential outcome in the case of mother developing the antibodies against her fetus) is a quite rare occurrence these days in places where the medical care is good. Women should just be aware of their own Rh blood type, and be certain that their gynocologeist/obstetrician is aware of any potential RH blood compatiblity and treatments with respect to giving them RhoGAM (for example, after amnio, late in pregnancy, after miscarriage or abortion, after delivery, etc.).

In the USA we generally have good obstetric care and it's routine for Rh - women to receive rhogam mid pregnancy and then immediatey after the baby is born.  One writer and regular visitor to the site who is a scientist by background says that " I believe I was even tested to see if I had antibodies (i.e., previous sensitization due to the fact that I had had miscarriages).  The wife should be sure she has not been previously sensitized, and that she received rhogam after miscarriages or abortions."

RH Incompatibilty between mother and offspring may increase risk of schizophrenia for child (particularly males)


Consider taking extra precautions to avoid getting the flu, during flu season. Pregnant women may want to reduce their risk of influenza by avoiding large social gatherings, avoiding people who have the flu, avoiding shaking hands with others, and washing hands frequently. A research study by Columbia University has suggested that approximately 14% of schizophrenia cases seem to have been caused by influenza during pregnancy.

New Understanding of How Flu Virus Exposure During Pregnancy May Increase Risk for Schizophrenia

Maternal infections & Flu during pregnancy are associated with increased risk of schizophrenia

Flu and Schizophrenia

Researchers Identify Risk Gene for Schizophrenia and Immune System (PAR1)

Prenatal Infection Increases Risk of Schizophrenia

The Role of Infections in Schizophrenia


Pregnant Women Should Eat a healthy diet with a lot of vegetables and the recommended amount of fish with omega 3 fatty acids. Fruit is also a good addition to the diet. Highly processed foods and junk food should be limited. According to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) guidelines, Americans should consume at least two servings of fruit and three servings of vegetables each day as part of a healthy diet. Researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health report that Americans are not meeting these minimum levels.

Prenatal Malnutrition Increases Schizophrenia Risk

Americans Don’t Consume Enough Fruits and Vegetables

Essential fatty acid (EFA) deficiency and resulting lipid membrane abnormalities may increase risk of schizophrenia

Oily fish makes 'babies brainier' (BBC)

Mother's fish diet boost to baby (BBC)

High-Dose Fish Oil Called Safe During Pregnancy

Fish, Levels of Mercury and Omega-3 Fatty Acids


Consider taking extra precautions to minimize risk of baby delivery complications and premature birth

Pregnancy and baby delivery complications are associated with increased risk of schizophrenia

Moderate Pomegranate Juice Intake May reduce risk of brain injuries in babies, May reduce risk of later schizophrenia

Recommended Book: Every Pregnant Woman's Guide to Preventing Premature Birth


Consider minimizing your exposure to cats during your pregnancy

Pregnant Women's Exposure to Cats with the the T. Gondi parisite may increase child's schizophrenia risk later in life

Toxoplasma Gondii ("Cat Parasite") Link to Schizophrenia Studied

Researchers Identify Risk Gene for Schizophrenia and Immune System (PAR1)

Cat Parasite Linked to Schizophrenia

Pregnancy, Cats and Schizophrenia


After Birth - Make Sure the Mental Health of the Mother is Good. Get quick treatment of postpartum depression or psychosis.

New Moms at Increased Risk for Mental Illness, Should be Screened After Childbirth


Breast feed the baby for at least 6 months, unless otherwise directed by a doctor

The benefits of breast-feeding are many and varied. Studies suggest that breast-fed kids are smarter, taller, thinner, healthier and less stressed than babies on bottles. Plus, breast-feeding helps moms bond with their babies and may even lower their blood pressure.

Ideally, nearly all mothers should breast-feed for six months or more, says Dr. David Paige, a reproductive health specialist at Johns Hopkins University. Breast feeding may, experts suggest, then be phased down over the following 6 months. Nearly three-quarters of new mothers in the United States are breast-feeding their babies, but they are quitting too soon and resorting to infant formula too often, federal health officials said in August, 2007.

Breast Feeding Your Baby may Reduce Risk of Schizophrenia

Breast-fed Babies handle stress better (BBC)

Watch the following video:


Provide vitamin D supplementation to your child during the first year of life

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends a daily supplement of 200 IU vitamin D for breastfed infants beginning within the first 2 months of life unless they are weaned to receive at least 500 ml (about 2 cups) per day of vitamin D-fortified formula [20]. Children and adolescents who are not routinely exposed to sunlight and do not consume at least 2, 8-fluid ounce servings of vitamin D-fortified milk per day are also at higher risk of vitamin D deficiency and may need a dietary supplement containing 200 IU vitamin D [20].

Formula fed infants usually consume recommended amounts of vitamin D because the 1980 Infant Formula Act requires that infant formulas be fortified with vitamin D.

Vitamin D supplementation in boys during first year of life is associated with lower risk of schizophrenia

Vitamin D Lowers Schizophrenia Risk

Vitamin D deficiency During Pregnancy Linked to Increased Risk of Schizophrenia

Vitamin D deficiency widespread during pregnancy, Increasing Schizophrenia Risk in Children


Consider having, and raising, your child outside of an urban environment. Research suggests that the average child born and raised in urban environments (compared to rural environments) have up to a two to three times higher risk of developing schizophrenia, and the highest rates of schizophrenia seen in the areas with the highest density of urbanization. Being brought up in a city seems to be a critical factor, and the risk increases the more childhood years spent in an urban environment. For people who do live in a city, the less dense the population, the lower the risk seems to be. In other words, it would seem to be better to live in row housing, than an area with large apartment buildings. The exact factors associated with living in a city that lead to the higher incidence of schizophrenia are unknown at this time. Researchers have theorized that the increased schizophrenia risk may be due to increased transfer of infections (e.g. the flu) in higher density living situations, or higher levels of poverty, interpersonal stress, polution, or noise in cities. Whatever the case, researchers have found that the more years that children spend growing up in an urban city environment, the higher the risk of schizophrenia. Also, reseach data suggests that children with genetic vulnerability are most at risk of the effects of an urban upbringing.

Columbia University schizophrenia researcher Dr. Cheryl Corcoran has, however, suggested that "urban environment" risk factor needs to interpreted with the understanding that the research is still early and you have to be careful about drawing overly general conclusions. Dr. Corcoran suggests, for example, that living on Fifth Avenue (the wealthy upper East side area of New York city close to central park) probably does not increase your risk for schizophrenia as compared to living in upstate (rural) New York. By contrast, living in a poor and highly populated part of a city is more likely to significantly raise the risk of schizophrenia compared to living in a less poor area of a rural or suburban area.

Country and Rural life (vs. city living) before age 15 is associated with lower rates of schizophrenia

Child and Teen Brains Very Sensitive to Stress, Likely a Key Factor in Mental Illness

Urban Schizophrenia Risk: A Family Affair?

Urban Living Increases Schizophrenia Risk

Background Environmental Noise During Pregnancy and Early Childhood May Impact Brain Development Negatively

Noise Activates Our Stress Hormones


Childcare Factors in Mental Health

Learn as much as you can about the important new lessons that psychology and neuroscience research is revealing about how to raise babies and children for maximum mental health. Research today is showing that sensitive, calm, responsive and nurturing childcare contributes greatly to having a mentally healthy baby and makes them more resilient later in life.

Additionally, "one of key things research suggests is that parents must be sure not to deny or dismiss a child's fear or distress, but rather to show empathy for it - and then be sure not to become trapped theselves within the child's bad mood but to confront the situation with a reassuring and optimistic sense that something can be done. By seizing moments of distress as an opportunity for empathy and intimacy, and for helping the child grow and learn, such parents become coaches in the art of managing life's ups and downs; in fact evidence suggests that such parenting changes not only how a child behaves but also the child's brain. One sign of this biological shift is that a chid's psysiology develops greater ability to recover from adverse arousal of stresses and strains - which is thought to be important for prevention of many mental disorders." (source: Social Intelligence, by Daniel Goleman, PHD).

The Finnish Adoptive Family Study of Schizophrenia has confirmed that genetics plays a major role in the risk of development of schizophrenia. It also found that persons with a genetic risk of schizophrenia are especially sensitive to the emotional climate of their family environment. A child-rearing environment that is sensitive and nurturing, with rare criticism and clear, straightforward communication appears to be protective against the triggering of this genetic risk.

Recommended Reading:

Improving Baby Mental Health - New Program for Parents

The Neuropsychology of the Playground (How Parenting Styles Impact Child Brain Development)

Talaris Research Institute has gathered leading research studies on social and emotional development and merged them into easy-to-read and interesting summaries. Learn about the amazing capabilities of babies and children through age 5 and learn how vital your role is as a parent. Read Full List of Summaries Here. See a sample of the summaries below:

Why 'mind-reading' mums are best (BBC)

Verbal Abuse Seriously Harms Children's Emotional Development

Children's Vulnerable Brains and Mental Health

Studies Show How Stress Damages Young Brains

Early Family Experience Can Eliminate the Effects of Genes, Minimize Risk of Mental Illness

Childcare, Genetics, Epigenetics and Schizophrenia

Is It Psychological Or Biological?

Additional Reading on Maximizing Child Mental Health

Social Intelligence for Teachers: Looking for Some Help

The Day Care Debate

The Circle of Security

Family warmth in schizophrenia

Environmental Threats to Healthy Kids: A conversation with Daniel Goleman and the Collaborative for Health and the Environment

Recommended books:

Baby Hearts: A Guide to Giving Your Child an Emotional Head Start

Bright From the Start: The Simple, Science-Backed Way to Nurture Your Child's Developing Mind fromBirth to Age 3

Books on Preventing Schizophrenia, By Maximizing Children's Mental Health

Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships, By Daniel Goleman, PHD


Teach your children (and yourself) a "Growth Mindset" on life's challenges, to reduce stress and maximize children's ability to effectively cope with difficulties in life, and maximize their success potential.

The following news articles focus on new research that shows the importance of teaching children a positive "growth" mindset and how parents can encourage this mindset. A growth mindset is important for children because it lowers children's stress levels, reduces risk of anxiety and depression disorders, and helps them make greater effort and a positive perspective in the face of difficulties, thereby increasing the likelihood that children will achieve their goals. With a growth mindset children more accurately see all setbacks or problems as positive challenges, or opportunities for growth and merely part of a normal life and a valuable learning experience. With a "growth mindset" children never need to feel the fear of being "branded" by any setbacks, difficulties or perceived failures.

This information is based on the research done by Dr. Carol Dweck, a psychologist from Columbia University (and more recently Stanford University) who has done a great deal of work on child development , child mental health and child resilience enhancing activities.

Recommended Reading:

How Parents and Other People Shape a Child's Personality (Newsweek Magazine)
The Effort Effect (Stanford University Alumni Magazine)
How Not to Talk to Your Kids (New York Magazine)
How to Praise Children (British Psychological Society)
How to Help Your Children Succeed (Time Magazine)
Recommended Book:Mindset: The New Psychology of Success By Dr. Carol Dweck, Stanford University

More Information on "How Not to Talk to Your Kids" from the writers of the New York Magazine article above:
Part 1, Part 2, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8

Dr. Dweck, a psychology professor at Stanford University, in her book "Mindset: The New Psychology of Success", describes how parents can help children develop a growth mindset:

  • Every word and action from a parent to a child sends a message. Tomorrow, listen to what you say to your kids and tune in to the messages you're sending. Are they messages that say "You have permanent traits and I'm judging them? Or are they messages that say "You're a developing person and I'm interested in your development"
  • How do you use praise? Remember that praising children's intelligence or talent is, tempting as it it, sends a fixed-mindset message. It makes their confidence and motivation more fragile and harms their performance. Instead, try to focus on the processes they used - their strategies, their effort or choices. Practice working the process praise into your interactions with your children.
  • Watch and listen to yourself carefully when your child messes up. Remember that constructive criticism is feedback that helps the child understand how to fix something. Its not feedback that labels or simply excuses the child. At the end of each day, write down the constructive criticism (and process praise) you've given your kids.
  • Parents often set goals their children can work toward. Remember that having innate talent is not a goal. Expanding skills and knowledge is. Pay careful attention to the goals you set for your children.
  • Many parents think that when they judge and punish they are teaching, as in "I'll teach you a lesson you'll never forget". What are they teaching? They are teaching their children that if they go against parents' rules or values they'll be judged and punished. They're not teaching their children how to think through the issues and come to ethical, mature decisions on their own. They're not teaching their children that the channels of communication are open. The next time you're in a position to discipline, ask yourself, What is the message I'm sending here: is it "I will judge and punish you?" or "I will help you think and learn?"
  • Parents can encourage the growth mindset on a daily basis. At the dinner table each evening parents can structure the discussion around a growth mindset, asking each child (and each other): What did you learn today?, What mistake did you make that taught you something?, What did you try hard at today?. You go around the table with each question, excitedly discussing your own and one another's effort, strategies, setbacks and learning. Practice your family's "Growth Mindset" on a daily basis.
  • Children learn by watching their parents - so to avoid teaching their children a fixed mindset parents must make a conscious effort not to be critical and judgemental not only to their children but also towards other people. If children hear parents judging and labeling other people (as bad or good, stupid or smart, mean or nice, etc.) they will expect you to also be labelling them - thereby encouraging a high level of anxiety, and this will also guide children towards a fixed mindset. Focus on identifying specific behaviors that may be unhelpful, or helpful, but don't make the mistake of taking a simplistic view on the world and labeling people as good or bad, (or using other simplistic labels on people). Individual's actions can be unhelpful or poorly thought out, or very well thought-out - but labeling someone with the word "stupid" or "smart", etc. is evidence of a fixed mindset that doesn't take into consideration the changing nature of people. Work to integrate a growth mindset into your own life - and your child will also learn that mindset.

Listen to this good interview with Dr. Carol Dweck that explains why its important to help children develop a "growth mindset".

Also, this diagram (pdf) explains the differences between the "fixed mindset" and "growth mindset."

Students' View of Intelligence [a growth mindset] Can Help Grades (NPR)

Following is a short video interview with Dr. Carol Dweck, on how you can help a develop a child's positive growth mindset:

Recommended books:

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success By Dr. Carol Dweck, Stanford University

Academic Book: Self-theories: Their Role in Motivation, Personality, and Development (Essays in Social Psychology) by Carol Dweck


During the first year of life, ideally the baby should be held by a sensitive, responsive and caring human for at least 4 hours a day.

Research suggests that babies who are held and carried frequently and get their need for touch well-met in their first year do not become clingy and overly dependent. Instead, they become well "attached" to their parents and caregivers, and have lower anxiety levels, they cry much less and they grow to become happier, more independent, more loving and more social than babies who spend much of their infancy in infant seats, swings, etc. that don't provide babies with human contact.

Childcare, Genetics, Epigenetics and Schizophrenia

Why 'mind-reading' mums are best (BBC)

Attachment Theory - Additional Reading for Psychology Students


Try to moderate the stress that children experience and help coach them on how to most effectively and positively deal with the stress they do experience. Also - parents should make an extra effort to learn to manage your own stress levels because children pick up stress from their parents. Evidence continues to mount that prenatal and early childhood stressful experiences can have profound long-term effects on the developing central nervous system and its regulation of basic physiology, psychology, and immune function. Stresses such as neglect and abuse during infancy may result in memory loss and impaired cognitive abilities that manifest later in life, a University of California , Irvine, study has found.

Children and Teen Brains Very Sensitive to Stress, Likely a Key Factor in Mental Illness

Lower level of Family Stress May Reduce Risk of Schizophrenia in Children

American Psychiatric Association Task Force Calls Attention to Increased Risk for Mental Illness From Adverse Childhood Experiences

Social Adversity during Childhood increases Schizophrenia Risk

Schizophrenia and Stress


Parents should work to minimize"Expressed Emotion" (yelling, shouting, arguing, or over-involvement & controlling behavior) between the parents, or directed at the children. Parents that raise their voices frequently and attempt to over-control their children can cause a great deal of stress for their children - and increased levels of stress in the family environment is, for children, associated with increased risk of depression and anxiety, in addition to schizophrenia. High levels of expressed emotion is considered by most psychologists and psychiatrists to be an indicator of a dysfunctional family because it is in contradiction to the warm, nurturing, empathetic approach to parenting that research indicates results in children with the lowest level of mental health problems.

Research suggests that if disagreements between adults and children can usually be handled with relative calm and rational discussions, the mental health of children is likely to be maximized and the child will learn good problem solving and conflict resolution skills that will be of value throughout their lives. Parents who have difficulty controlling their emotions may benefit from books such as Feeling Good and The Feeling Good Handbook and by working with a psychologist or therapist who can help teach them skills for emotional control and anger management. Over-involvement and controlling behavior is a common symptom of anxiety (worry / fear) which can be treated with psychotherapy (cognitive behavioral therapy).

"Expressed Emotion" - Wikipedia

A Healthy Family Social Environment May Reduce Schizophrenia Risk by 86% for High Genetic Risk Groups

Noise Activates Our Stress Hormones

Verbal Abuse Seriously Harms Children's Emotional Development

Related Research:

Expressed emotion and the outcome of child and adolescent psychiatric disorders

Learn from the latest research into Child Development and Practice Sensitive, Nurturing, Low-stress Parenting.

Recommended Reading:

A Positive Relationship With Both Parents During Childhood May Protect Against Schizophrenia in Adulthood

Epigenetics and Mental Illness - Child Care Has an Impact

Early Family Experience Can Eliminate the Effects of Genes, Minimize Risk of Mental Illness

Childhood Emotional Abuse, Emotional Neglect and Schizophrenia

Children's Vulnerable Brains and Mental Health

Read up on the newest books that cover the new research into optimal parenting approaches for child mental health:

Books on Preventing Schizophrenia, By Maximizing Children's Mental Health


It is likely to be helpful to teach children a positive, optimistic view on life and life's events and challenges. Research suggests that a positive "growth-oriented" approach to life will make the child more resilient to stress and negative events in their life and thereby lowering the risk of anxiety disorders, depression and other mental illnesses. When setbacks are viewed as learning opportunities, and "increased effort" is rewarded by parents - children learn to be persistent and not to let "failures" define them.

How people think about the events in their lives affects their brain chemistry, and probably even the risk for schizophrenia. This suggests that parents can teach their children how to think about the problems they encounter and the stresses in their lives – in a manner which may be more healthy (less stressful) and that may result in lower risk for mental illness. For example, Dr. Martin Seligman, a well known psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania has written books that propose that teaching children an optimistic interpretation of the world results in children that have greater resiliency in the face of challenges and stress – and lower rates of mental illness (especially depression and anxiety). 

Recommended Reading:

The Effort Effect (Stanford University Alumni Magazine)

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success By Dr. Carol Dweck, Stanford University

The Optimistic Child: Raise Your Children To Be Optimists

Learned Optimism - Book Overview & Summary

University of Pennsylvania Positive Psychology Center 

Dr. Seligman has written books we recommend: “Learned Optimism” and "The Optimistic Child"


Encourage and Assist the development of good social skills for your children - Research suggests that people who have a family predisposition to schizophrenia have a biological factors that make it more difficult for them to understand facial expressions - and reserchers are currently investigating whether by improving children at risk (i.e. children with relatives who have schizophrenia) can lower their risk by improving their facial emotion recognition skills.

Additionally, research also suggests thta better social skills should help lower social stress for a child throughout life. Poor social skills (negative symptoms) are a defining symptom of schizophrenia. Some research being done suggests that extra effort in helping children develop good social skills during childhood may lower risk of schizophrenia later in life. Research suggests that children learn most of their early social skills from their parents. If a parent's social skills are not strong (i.e. a person has difficulty making and maintaining strong friendships and positive social interactions) then a child is at increased risk of not learning good social skills - which can lead to social isolation and stress.

Please note that research shows that children are unable to learn much in the way of social skills prior to age three - and every child develops at a slightly different rate and in different ways. Research suggests that it would be beneficial for the child's development for parents to be encouraging of children's social development after age three - in a sensitive and positive approach.

Following are some readings and software programs that may provide some education and assistance for children in this area:

Social Skills (also called emotional and social intelligence by researchers) has become increasingly identified as factors in mental health and success in life.

Social Exclusion Harms Decision Making and Learning Ability

Early behavior problems appear to lead to peer rejection and friendlessness

Schizophrenia linked to limited understanding of body language

Researchers have found that social skill deficits tend to be very common in people who develop schizophrenia, and that when people who have schizophrenia are taught better social skills that there is a reduction in the severity of the "negative" symptoms. This research seems to suggest that putting extra effort into teaching children good social skills and emotional management may reduce the risk of schizophrenia. Some of the same research is being applied in autism therapy and risk reduction and the same tools that are used in improving the social skills in autistic children may also be of value in improving social skills and emotional management in children at risk for schizophrenia. Teaching children good social skills and "emotional intelligence" is important for all children - so putting extra effort on it for children with a family history of mental illness is not a wasted effort.

Cartoons to aid autistic children (BBC)

Cartoon Web Site - The Transporters

Computer software has been developed to specifically teach children emotional understanding and effective social skills (and again, these are primarily focused on helping children with autism, but research suggests that there are social skills deficit aspects to autism that relate to children at risk for schizophrenia). Following is information on two such software programs that are available to the public:

The Mind Reading program information by Dr. Simon Baron-Cohen.

The program is available at:

Mind Reading: The Interactive Guide to Emotions (Amazon - $49),

or direct from publisher here (price approx. $120 US).

Another Tool that researchers are using that coaches people on understanding and recognizing facial emotions is Dr. Paul Ekman's training CD on emotions. To learn more about Dr. Ekman - visit his web site.

Dr. Ekman's software programs are available here for purchase: Interactive/Self-Administered Training - METT/SETT Hybrid ($49)

Helpful Actions - Resources to help parents increase the social and emotional intelligence of children

Recommended Books:


A family may want to work on providing an enriched educational, nutritional and social environment for their children.

Enriched Educational, Nutrition and Social Environments Lower Risk of Schizophrenia

Reading Ability Can Protect Brain From Lead Exposure, Brain Disorders

One in Ten Children is Suffering Mental Health Problems, Poverty a Key Factor (UK)

Poor Mental Health linked to Poor Diet


When a family emigrates to a new country, the family should make extra efforts to live in a neighborhood where their race is the majority, and make sure that the child integrates well in the new environment and makes strong friendships. The social stress that is associated with significant changes of environment for children, (and racism and bullying that may take place in a new country) is associated with a higher risk of schizophrenia. New research suggests that children who grow up in envronments where they are the same race as the dominant race of their neighborhood (in the new country they live in), have lower rates of social stress and schizophrenia.

Stress of Immigration and Discrimination a Risk Factor for Schizophrenia

Social Stress Associated with Immigration Identified as a High Risk Factor for Schizophrenia

UK Caribbean Migrants Have Higher Risk of Schizophrenia

Social Stress Has Link to Psychotic Disorders

Subtle Bias Affects Mental Health of Korean Immigrants in Canada


Try to minimize the risk of traumatic events in a child's life:

Past Abuse Common Factor in Psychotic Disorders

Trauma Link to Schizophrenia is Strengthened by New Research

Children's Vulnerable Brains and Mental Health

Schizophrenia Usually Caused by Child Abuse? Proof Lacking

Famine / Schizophrenia link May Yield Clues About Inherited Diseases And Conditions

Child abuse and schizophrenia?


Encourage the development of good "reality testing" skills for your children so that they can better determine what is real and what is fantasy. Psychiatrists we've talked to have suggested that children who are taught good "reality testing" skills may be at lower risk for psychosis because of they can more quickly and accurately distinguishing between what is real and what is fantasy. Psychiatrists also tell us that in general it is a bad thing to give children contradictory information about the environment (usually done with the intent of "protecting" the child, for example a parent who has just been crying, telling the child that they are not sad, etc.).

Related Books:

A children's book (for children age 6 to 12 years old) "Maybe Yes, Maybe No", By Dan Barker. This book is a child's introduction to healthy skepticism. The book's ten-year-old heroine, Andrea, is "always asking questions," writes author Dan Barker, because she thinks "you should prove the truth of a strange story before you believe it."This book teaches the essentials of critical thinking - "Check it out," "Repeat the experiment," " Try to prove it wrong," "It has to make sense"- illustrating each of these rules with clear examples. Appropriate for elementary school and early middle school.

An excellent book that covers the issue of "reality testing" for children and young adults age 12 and above is Carl Sagan's book titled " The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark"


Encourage good head and brain safety practices in children

Head injury has been linked to a significant (300%) increase in schizophrenia risk for those children who are biologically predisposed to schizophrenia. Such head safety practices as proper use of baby car seats, wearing a helmet when riding a bicycle, and wearing a seat belt while riding in a car, should be strongly encouraged by parents.

Head Injury Linked to Increased Risk of Schizophrenia

Children's Vulnerable Brains and Mental Health


Get early screening and treatment for mental health problems in children

The early symptoms of most mental illnesses start when children are very young with more subtle symptoms. Research is now showing that early treatment of mental health problems is an important step in prevention of mental illnesses and it is therefore encouraged for parents to get their children screening, and if need be - treated, as early as possible. Like most illnesses - the sooner you can identify and treat mental illness, the greater the chance that you can avoid the most serious consequences. Early mental health issues that parents should watch for (between the ages of 3 and 6) and consult psychologists about include social anxiety/shyness, social isolation, ongoing sadness, fears and sleep problems, and conduct disorders.

Recommended Reading:

Cognitive Therapy May Prevent High Risk Populations From Developing Psychosis

Uncovering an Epidemic - Screening for Mental Illness in Teens

Young Child Mental Health - The Importance of Early Treatment

Screening for Mental Health an Important First Step to Getting Treatment

TeenScreen - Some States Order Psychological Tests In Schools

Early Diagnosis - Nipping Madness in the Bud

Early behavior problems appear to lead to peer rejection and friendlessness






























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