Identifier

etd-07072013-175702

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

Document Type

Dissertation

Abstract

Schizophrenia is a devastating disorder characterized by a variety of bizarre behaviors as well as deficits in neurocognition, social cognition, and functioning. This study focuses on individuals with schizotypy—those with the purported genetic liability for schizophrenia that do not display the full disorder. Prior research has identified potential risk factors for schizophrenia by studying this population, including deficits in social cognition. Studies of social cognition in individuals with schizotypy, however, have yielded inconsistent findings that have failed to fully explain the range of functional deficits seen in these individuals. Social connectedness, in contrast, may be a more useful risk factor and may better explain these deficits. Specifically, individuals with schizotypy may have low levels of social connectedness which leads to poor functioning, odd social behaviors, and social cognitive deficits. To examine this hypothesis, 39 individuals with schizotypy and 41 healthy controls were included in this study. Individuals with schizotypy reported significantly lower levels of social connectedness than controls. A model of the relationship between schizotypy and outcome— defined as social competence, quality of life, and general psychopathology symptoms as measured by the Brief Symptom Inventory (BSI; Derogatis & Melisaratos, 1983)—in which social connectedness was a mediator was evaluated. Social connectedness mediated the relationship between schizotypy and poorer objective and subjective quality of life, but not when social competence and BSI symptoms were the outcomes. Finally, specific schizotypy traits and their relationship to social connectedness were considered. Negative schizotypy was significantly related to social connectedness. Social connectedness appears to be an important feature of the schizophrenia spectrum especially when considering quality of life. Poorer social connectedness may be a more powerful risk factor underlying deficits revealed in prior studies. A primary deficit in social connectedness may also explain why research examining specific deficits on performance based tasks such as in social cognition studies has found inconsistent evidence for deficits in individuals with schizotypy. Results and implications for the conceptual understanding of schizotypy are discussed, and recommendations are made for future studies of social connectedness in the schizophrenia spectrum.

Date

2013

Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Cohen, Alex

Included in

Psychology Commons

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