An exploration into the influence of schizotypic maternal personality on early sensory development

Smith, Ellie (2019) An exploration into the influence of schizotypic maternal personality on early sensory development. PhD thesis, UNSPECIFIED.

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It has been known for some time that maternal personality is an influential factor in determining developmental and clinical outcomes in childhood risk for mental health. Current literature describes schizotypy as a multidimensional construct, representing a vulnerability to the schizophrenia-spectrum. This thesis investigates atypicalities observed throughout the spectrum aiming to determine whether these were present in mothers with sub-clinical schizotypy, and their offspring. Chapter 2 explored sensory gating in infants at 6-months of age. Infants displayed intact sensory gating, and there was no difference between infants of schizotypic and those of control mothers. The mothers of the infants displayed significant differences between Stimulus 1 and Stimulus 2, but also differences as a result of their schizotypy dimensionality; replicating prior literature. Similarly, in Chapter 3, schizotypic mothers displayed reduced oscillatory power towards Stimulus 1 of the paired-tone paradigm, replicating prior literature. In contrast, their infants showed no group differences. This implies that having a mother with schizotypic traits does not influence the sensory gating ability of their 6-month-old infants. Chapter 4 demonstrated that 6-month-old infants differentiated between happy and fearful emotional facial expressions, replicating prior literature. Maternal schizotypy, however, did not influence this ability. When exploring face processing in the maternal sample, schizotypic mothers exhibited greater amplitudes towards both facial expressions when contrasted with non-schizotypic mothers. In Chapter 5 we explored relationships between schizotypy and mother-child interactions in a free play session. We found that oscillatory power shown by infants in their left and right parietal regions was greater when their mother was talking to them, or when they were playing independently with a toy, compared to a baseline. No significant differences were observed between infants of schizotypic, and those of control mothers. Despite a lack of infant group effects, it is important to explore schizotypal expression during adolescence and adulthood as a critical link to childhood risk markers, which confer a role of developmental facilitators on the road to psychosis proneness. This thesis concludes that schizotypy is linked to the schizophrenia-spectrum, as shown consistently by maternal electrophysiological data, but that maternal level of schizotypy did not have an effect on infant markers.

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Thesis (PhD)
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21 Aug 2019 15:35
Last Modified:
09 Oct 2023 23:57