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J Abnorm Psychol. 2012 May;121(2):388-95. doi: 10.1037/a0026922. Epub 2012 Jan 16.

Using latent class growth analysis to form trajectories of premorbid adjustment in schizophrenia.

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Clinical Brain Disorders Branch, National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


Premorbid adjustment varies widely among individuals with schizophrenia and has been shown to bear significantly on prodrome and onset characteristics, and on cognition, symptoms, and functioning after onset. The current analysis focused on the Premorbid Adjustment Scale, a retrospective measure assessing social and academic function at several time points from early childhood to illness onset. In an effort to explore discrete developmental subtypes, we applied latent class growth analysis to data from the Premorbid Adjustment Scale in our sample of individuals with schizophrenia (N = 208), finding three latent trajectory classes. The first of these classes showed consistently adequate-to-good social and academic functioning before onset; the second showed initially good function and deterioration with time until onset; the third showed poor functioning in childhood that deteriorated further during the years up to diagnosis. The classes differed significantly in terms of age of onset, processing speed, and functioning after onset. There were no significant differences in symptomatology. Our findings illustrate a potentially powerful methodological approach to the problem of heterogeneity in schizophrenia research, and add weight to the notion that aspects of premorbid history may be useful for subtyping schizophrenia patients. The potential implications of this subtyping strategy, including those pertaining to potential genetics studies, are discussed.

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