Acute Stressors in Early Development

Is an acute stressor in childhood, such as the sudden death of a parent, associated with a higher incidence of mental illness in adulthood? More specifically, if a father or sibling were to die a quick and unanticipated death before a child is 5-years-old, is that child more likely to have a diagnosis of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder as an adult? A study in Finland suggests that the answer is yes.  Children before the age of 5 who suddenly lost their father or sibling (such as in an accident or to suicide) were more likely to develop schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.  These children were in contrast to children who lost their father or sibling during the same age range but to a non-sudden cause (e.g. illness).  This finding is consistent with other research that suggests that  exposure to a sudden stressor in early development  increases the likelihood of a psychotic disorder later in life. Abstract: Sudden death of father or sibling in early childhood increases risk for psychotic disorder, Schizophrenia Research

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