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Prevalence of psychotic symptoms in childhood and adolescence: a systematic review and meta-analysis of population-based studies

  • I. Kelleher (a1), D. Connor (a1), M. C. Clarke (a1), N. Devlin (a1) (a2), M. Harley (a1) (a2) and M. Cannon (a1) (a3)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 09 January 2012

Psychotic symptoms occur more frequently in the general population than psychotic disorder and index risk for psychopathology. Multiple studies have reported on the prevalence of these symptoms using self-report questionnaires or clinical interviews but there is a lack of consensus about the prevalence of psychotic symptoms among children and adolescents.


We conducted a systematic review of all published literature on psychotic symptom prevalence in two age groups, children aged 9–12 years and adolescents aged 13–18 years, searching through electronic databases PubMed, Ovid Medline, PsycINFO and EMBASE up to June 2011, and extracted prevalence rates.


We identified 19 population studies that reported on psychotic symptom prevalence among children and adolescents. The median prevalence of psychotic symptoms was 17% among children aged 9–12 years and 7.5% among adolescents aged 13–18 years.


Psychotic symptoms are relatively common in young people, especially in childhood. Prevalence is higher in younger (9–12 years) compared to older (13–18 years) children.

Corresponding author
*Address for correspondence: Dr I. Kelleher or Professor M. Cannon, Department of Psychiatry, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Education and Research Centre, Beaumont Hospital, Dublin 9, Ireland. (Email: (Email:
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