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Investigating whether adverse prenatal and perinatal events are associated with non-clinical psychotic symptoms at age 12 years in the ALSPAC birth cohort

Abstract
Background

Non-clinical psychosis-like symptoms (PLIKS) occur in about 15% of the population. It is not clear whether adverse events during early development alter the risk of developing PLIKS. We aimed to examine whether maternal infection, diabetes or pre-eclampsia during pregnancy, gestational age, perinatal cardiopulmonary resuscitation or 5-min Apgar score were associated with development of psychotic symptoms during early adolescence.

Method

A longitudinal study of 6356 12-year-old adolescents who completed a semi-structured interview for psychotic symptoms in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) birth cohort. Prenatal and perinatal data were obtained from obstetric records and maternal questionnaires completed during pregnancy.

Results

The presence of definite psychotic symptoms was associated with maternal infection during pregnancy [adjusted odds ratio (OR) 1.44, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.11–1.86, p=0.006], maternal diabetes (adjusted OR 3.43, 95% CI 1.14–10.36, p=0.029), need for resuscitation (adjusted OR 1.50, 95% CI 0.97–2.31, p=0.065) and 5-min Apgar score (adjusted OR per unit decrease 1.30, 95% CI 1.12–1.50, p<0.001). None of these associations were mediated by childhood IQ score. Most associations persisted, but were less strong, when including suspected symptoms as part of the outcome. There was no association between PLIKS and gestational age or pre-eclampsia.

Conclusions

Adverse events during early development may lead to an increased risk of developing PLIKS. Although the status of PLIKS in relation to clinical disorders such as schizophrenia is not clear, the similarity between these results and findings reported for schizophrenia indicates that future studies of PLIKS may help us to understand how psychotic experiences and clinical disorders develop throughout the life-course.

Copyright
Corresponding author
*Address for correspondence: Dr S. Zammit, Department of Psychological Medicine, School of Medicine, Cardiff University, Heath Park, Cardiff CF14 4XN, Wales, UK. (Email: zammits@Cardiff.ac.uk)
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