Background Previous studies have demonstrated high levels of childhood adversity and familial criminality in offender patients with schizophrenia and/or personality disorder, but few have directly compared these groups.
Aims To compare the parenting histories of offender patients with schizophrenia with those with personality disorder. We hypothesised that rates of family criminality and experiences of disrupted parenting would be higher in the personality disorder group than the schizophrenia group.
Method A retrospective case-control methodology compared the family background and childhood experiences of patients with either schizophrenia or personality disorder (n = 3088) admitted to any of the English high-security hospitals.
Results Compared with those with schizophrenia, patients with personality disorder had experienced higher rates of family criminality, parental separation, and multiple changes of caregiver and institutional care. There was no significant difference in the prevalence of family psychiatric history between the groups.
Discussion Although our hypotheses were sustained, we were impressed that rates of disruption to parenting were high in the schizophrenia group as well as in the personality disorder group. Less than a third of the personality disorder group had survived childhood without a change in parenting, but this was true for about half of the schizophrenia group, too. Family work tailored for people with schizophrenia is needed, even though within personality disorder services, a greater demand for disorder-sensitive family work is likely to be encountered. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.