Childhood-onset schizophrenia (defined by an onset of psychosis by age 12) is a rare and severe form of the disorder that is clinically and neurobiologically continuous with the adult-onset disorder. There is growing evidence for more salient risk or etiologic factors, particularly familial, in this possibly more homogeneous patient population. For the 49 patients with very early onset schizophrenia studied to date at the National Institute of Mental Health, there were more severe premorbid neuro-developmental abnormalities, a higher rate of cytogenetic anomalies, and a seemingly higher rate of familial schizophrenia and spectrum disorders than later onset cases. There was no evidence for increased obstetric complications or environmental stress. These data, while preliminary, suggest that a very early age of onset of schizophrenia may be secondary to greater familial vulnerability. Consequently, genetic studies of these patients may be particularly informative and may provide important etiologic information.