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Does childhood trauma play a role in the aetiology of psychosis? A review of recent evidence

  • Helen Coughlan and Mary Cannon

There has been a resurgence of interest in the role of childhood trauma in the aetiology of psychosis. In this review, recent findings on the association between childhood trauma and a continuum of psychotic symptoms are presented. Evidence of the association between specific childhood trauma subtypes and psychotic symptoms is examined, with a brief discussion of some current hypotheses about the potential mechanisms underlying the associations that have been found. Some practice implications of these findings are also highlighted.


• Identify findings from recent meta-analyses on the association between childhood trauma and a range of psychotic outcomes, from non-clinical psychotic experiences to psychotic disorders

• Consider which childhood traumas are the most potent in the context of psychotic outcomes

• Recognise that the relationships between childhood trauma, psychotic symptoms and other psychopathology are complex, dynamic and multidimensional

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Corresponding author
Correspondence Helen Coughlan, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, RCSI Education and Research Centre, Beaumont Hospital, Dublin 9, Ireland. Email:
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For commentaries on this article, see pp. 316–317 and 318–320, this issue.

Declaration of Interest


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Does childhood trauma play a role in the aetiology of psychosis? A review of recent evidence

  • Helen Coughlan and Mary Cannon
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