Thumbnail Image

You, your child, and mental health

Goff, Etta Ann Tatham
Scope of Study: The major concern of an expectant mother is not the sex, but the health--particularly mental health-- of the unborn child. The purpose of the study was to provide a layman's understanding of the basic principles of heredity and the genetic causes of mental retardation and mental illness. An attempt was made to determine if heredity does influence mental health. The incidence rate for specific types of mental retardation is included as well as an explanation of the difference between inherited mental retardation and mental illness. There is a brief description of prenatal tests for chromosomal abnormalities which may lead to mental retardation, the role of the environment on mental illness, and a look into that future of genetic studies on mental health.
Findings and Conclusion: Since 1934 when the relationship between Phenylketonuria (PKU) and mental retardation was discovered there have been other mental diseases linked to inherited faulty biochemical processes. Currently there are about 1350 single-gene determined diseases, many of them associated with mental retardation. Although many forms of mental illness are attributed to defective genes, the study of schizophrenia-- the most common form of all psychiatric diseases--is still inconclusive and it remains the least understood illness to undergo genetic investigation.