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A developmental increase in allostatic load from ages 3 to 11 years is associated with increased schizotypal personality at age 23 years

  • Melissa Peskin (a1), Adrian Raine (a1), Yu Gao (a1), Peter H. Venables (a2) and Sarnoff A. Mednick (a3)...

Although allostatic load has been investigated in mood and anxiety disorders, no prior study has investigated developmental change in allostatic load as a precursor to schizotypal personality. This study employed a multilevel developmental framework to examine whether the development of increased allostatic load, as indicated by impaired sympathetic nervous system habituation from ages 3 to 11 years, predisposes to schizotypal personality at age 23 years. Electrodermal activity to six aversive tones was recorded in 995 subjects at age 3 years and again at 11 years. Habituation slopes at both ages were used to create groups who showed a developmental increase in habituation (decreased allostatic load), and those who showed a developmental decrease in habituation (increased allostatic load). Children who showed a developmental increase in allostatic load from ages 3 to 11 years had higher levels of schizotypal personality at 23 years. A breakdown of total schizotypy scores demonstrated specificity of findings to cognitive–perceptual features of schizotypy. Findings are the first to document a developmental abnormality in allostasis in relation to adult schizotypal personality. The relative failure to develop normal habituation to repeated stressors throughout childhood is hypothesized to result in an accumulation of allostatic load and consequently increased positive symptom schizotypy in adulthood.

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Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Melissa Peskin, Department of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania, 3720 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6241; E-mail:
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