In an investigation of the timing and precursors of social decline in schizophrenia and affective psychosis, 195 subjects from the Camberwell Collaborative Psychosis Study were currently of lower social class than were their fathers. A comparison between father's occupation and proband's best premorbid occupational level indicated underachievement confined to DSM-III schizophrenia, there being no such effect in affective psychosis. Decline in social status following onset of psychosis, analysed by comparing best premorbid occupation with current occupation, was marked in both schizophrenia and affective psychosis, indicating a non-specific effect. Schizophrenic patients who failed to achieve their fathers' social status had poorer educational qualifications than those who equalled or bettered their paternal social class, despite similar premorbid IQ (NART) scores and age at onset of psychosis. These results indicate that schizophrenia may be manifest before the onset of psychosis, and lend weight to the notion of a developmental origin to this disorder.