Migration Status, Familial Risk for Mental Disorder, and Schizotypal Personality Traits


  • Odin van der Stelt
  • Dounia Boubakri
  • Max Feltzer


Markedly raised incidence rates of schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders have been observed in several migrant and ethnic minority groups. To contribute to a better understanding of the elevated risk for psychotic disorders that is conferred by migration status, the present study examined effects associated with migration risk status on schizotypal personality traits, which are thought to reflect an underlying vulnerability to psychotic disorder. Effects of migration status were also compared to effects associated with a family history of psychopathology, which represents a robust nonspecific risk factor. We assessed schizotypal traits, using the Schizotypal Personality Questionnaire (SPQ), in a community-based sample of 62 Moroccan migrants and 41 Dutch nonmigrants, who were classified by the presence or absence of a family history of psychopathology. Overall, Moroccan migrants obtained higher SPQ scores than Dutch nonmigrants. However, migrants who had been classified as having a familial load of psychopathology displayed higher SPQ scores than migrants without such a family history, who in turn did not differ from Dutch nonmigrants. Furthermore, migrants with a familial load, relative to migrants without such a family history, reported higher levels of substance use and feelings of anxiety or depression, and perceived more often ethnic discrimination, which closely paralleled their SPQ scores. These findings indicate that primarily those migrants who are both intrinsically vulnerable and chronically exposed to social adversity, particularly ethnic discrimination, are at elevated risk for psychotic and other disorders. The results add to the evidence that migration status and perceived discrimination are associated with mental health.