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J Abnorm Psychol. 2003 Aug;112(3):469-75.

Stability of formal thought disorder and referential communication disturbances in schizophrenia.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Kent State University, Ohio 44242, USA.


This study examined the degree to which different types of communication disturbances in the speech of 48 schizophrenia patients and 28 controls were variable and state related versus stable and traitlike. Clinically rated formal thought disorder and 5 types of referential disturbance showed substantial stability within participants over time. The sixth type of referential disturbance, the vague reference, was not stable over time. Formal thought disorder was associated with the severity of core psychotic symptoms in patients. whereas referential disturbances showed little or no association with positive or negative symptom severity. Furthermore, changes in psychotic symptoms over time were accompanied by corresponding changes in formal thought disorder but not referential disturbances. These results support the idea that some types of referential disturbances are traitlike and may be reflective of vulnerability as well as manifest illness.

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