Childhood-onset psychosis

Avid readers of this blog will recall that, in a previous post, I questioned the assertion of Dorothy Rowe, in her Foreword to Models of Madness: Psychological, Social and Biological Approaches to Schizophrenia, that "on a number of occasions [in Sydney in 1961] I was the first person to identify a child as being psychotic". I said that, because childhood-onset psychosis is rare, I doubted she actually did this.

But after expressing that opinion, I wondered whether psychologists in 1961 were convinced that childhood-onset psychosis was something one could readily find among schoolchildren.

I did not have to wonder for long. While browsing in my own secondhand bookshop, I came across a copy of Psychiatry To-day, by David Stafford-Clark — a Pelican book first published by Penguin Books in 1952, and reprinted in 1953, 1954, 1956 and 1959. And while looking through it, I found two references to "the rare psychotic illnesses of childhood" on Page 216.

Stafford-Clark goes on to say, on Page 217, that "many of the ways of thinking and feeling which are normal in childhood, and to some degree in adolescence", including a tendency "to credit words and thoughts with magical power", can "combine to give a schizophrenic flavour to disturbances which may be far more transient and benign than schizophrenia in adult patients usually proves. For this reason the diagnosis of schizophrenia is made only with the greatest reservation during this stage of life..."

The above post was originally written on February 19, 2005.