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Although the exact causes of schizophrenia are not known, it appears
that several factors increase a person's risk for the illness. These factors
interact with one another to influence the development and the course
of schizophrenia (Strauss and Carpenter 1981; Weinberger and Hirsch 1995),
and different factors assume importance at different stages in the individual's
development. Genetic factors and complications of pregnancy and delivery
can each play a part in forming the new-born infant's predisposition to
developing the illness. The timing of the onset of illness in later life
depends upon the extent of the person's vulnerability and exposure to
a variety of stresses. Precipitating stresses may be biological in nature
(e.g., hallucinogenic drug abuse) or social (e.g., losing a relative).
These and other factors and stresses also affect the course and outcome
of the illness.