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Childhood abuse and neglect in relation to the presence and persistence of psychotic and depressive symptomatology

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 July 2014

D. S. van Dam
Department of Psychiatry, Academic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands
M. van Nierop
Maastricht University Medical Center, South Limburg Mental Health Research and Teaching Network, EURON, Maastricht, The Netherlands
W. Viechtbauer
Maastricht University Medical Center, South Limburg Mental Health Research and Teaching Network, EURON, Maastricht, The Netherlands
E. Velthorst
Department of Psychiatry, Academic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Departments of Psychiatry and Preventive Medicine, New York, USA
R. van Winkel
Maastricht University Medical Center, South Limburg Mental Health Research and Teaching Network, EURON, Maastricht, The Netherlands University Psychiatric Center, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Kortenberg, Belgium
R. Bruggeman
Department of Psychiatry, University Medical Center Groningen, University of Groningen, The Netherlands
W. Cahn
Department of Psychiatry, Rudolf Magnus Institute of Neuroscience, University Medical Center Utrecht, The Netherlands
L. de Haan
Department of Psychiatry, Academic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands
R. S. Kahn
Department of Psychiatry, Rudolf Magnus Institute of Neuroscience, University Medical Center Utrecht, The Netherlands
C. J. Meijer*
Department of Psychiatry, Academic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands
I. Myin-Germeys
Maastricht University Medical Center, South Limburg Mental Health Research and Teaching Network, EURON, Maastricht, The Netherlands
J. van Os
Maastricht University Medical Center, South Limburg Mental Health Research and Teaching Network, EURON, Maastricht, The Netherlands Department of Psychosis Studies, Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, UK
D. Wiersma
Department of Psychiatry, University Medical Center Groningen, University of Groningen, The Netherlands
*Address for correspondence: C. J. Meijer, M.Sc., Ph.D., Department of Psychiatry, Early Psychosis Section, Academic Medical Center, Meibergdreef 5, Room PA1-136, 1105 AZ Amsterdam, The Netherlands. (Email:



The association between childhood trauma and psychotic and depressive symptomatology is well established. However, less is known about the specificity and course of these symptoms in relation to childhood trauma.


In a large sample (n = 2765) of patients with psychosis (n = 1119), their siblings (n = 1057) and controls (n = 589), multivariate (mixed-effects) regression analyses with multiple outcomes were performed to examine the association between childhood trauma and psychotic and depressive symptomatology over a 3-year period.


A dose–response relationship was found between childhood trauma and psychosis. Abuse was more strongly associated with positive symptoms than with negative symptoms whereas the strength of the associations between neglect and positive and negative symptoms was comparable. In patients, similar associations between childhood trauma and psychotic or depressive symptoms were found, and in siblings and controls, stronger associations were found between trauma and depressive symptomatology. Childhood trauma was not related to a differential course of symptoms over a 3-year time period.


In congruence with earlier work, our findings suggest that childhood trauma, and abuse in particular, is associated with (subthreshold) psychosis. However, childhood trauma does not seem to be associated with a differential course of symptoms, nor does it uniquely heighten the chance of developing (subthreshold) psychotic symptomatology. Our results indicate that trauma may instead contribute to a shared vulnerability for psychotic and depressive symptoms.

Original Articles
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2014 

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