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Associations between childhood trauma, bullying and psychotic symptoms among a school-based adolescent sample

  • Ian Kelleher (a1), Michelle Harley (a2), Fionnuala Lynch (a3), Louise Arseneault (a4), Carol Fitzpatrick (a5) and Mary Cannon (a6)...
Abstract
Background

Children and adolescents who report psychotic symptoms appear to be at increased risk for psychotic disorders in adulthood – a putative ‘symptomatic’ high-risk group. However, little research has investigated whether those in this high-risk population have increased rates of exposure to traumatic events in childhood, as seen in patients who have a psychotic illness.

Aims

To examine whether adolescents with psychotic symptoms have an increased rate of traumatic experiences.

Method

Psychiatric interviews were carried out with 211 adolescents aged between 12 and 15 years and their parents as part of a population-based study. The interview enquired about a number of early traumatic events including physical and sexual abuse, exposure to domestic violence and bullying.

Results

Fourteen adolescents (6.6% of those interviewed) reported experiencing at least one psychotic symptom. Adolescents who reported psychotic symptoms were significantly more likely to have been physically abused in childhood, to have been exposed to domestic violence and to be identified as a bully/victim (that is, both a perpetrator and victim of bullying) than those who did not report such symptoms. These findings were not confounded by comorbid psychiatric illness or family history of psychiatric history.

Conclusions

Our findings suggest that childhood trauma may increase the risk of psychotic experiences. The characteristics of bully/victims deserve further study.

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Copyright
Corresponding author
Professor Mary Cannon, Department of Psychiatry, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Education and Research Centre, Beaumont Hospital, Dublin 9, Ireland. Email: marycannon@rcsi.ie
Footnotes
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Declaration of interest

None. Funding detailed in Acknowledgements.

Footnotes
References
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Associations between childhood trauma, bullying and psychotic symptoms among a school-based adolescent sample

  • Ian Kelleher (a1), Michelle Harley (a2), Fionnuala Lynch (a3), Louise Arseneault (a4), Carol Fitzpatrick (a5) and Mary Cannon (a6)...
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