Skip to main content
×
×
Home

Childhood abuse and psychotic experiences in adulthood: findings from a 35-year longitudinal study

  • Caroline J. Bell (a1), James A. Foulds (a2), L. John Horwood (a3), Roger T. Mulder (a4) and Joseph M. Boden (a5)...
Abstract
Background

The extent to which exposure to childhood sexual and physical abuse increases the risk of psychotic experiences in adulthood is currently unclear.

Aims

To examine the relationship between childhood sexual and physical abuse and psychotic experiences in adulthood taking into account potential confounding and time-dynamic covariate factors.

Method

Data were from a cohort of 1265 participants studied from birth to 35 years. At ages 18 and 21, cohort members were questioned about childhood sexual and physical abuse. At ages 30 and 35, they were questioned about psychotic experiences (symptoms of abnormal thought and perception). Generalised estimating equation models investigated covariation of the association between abuse exposure and psychotic experiences including potential confounding factors in childhood (socioeconomic disadvantage, adverse family functioning) and time-dynamic covariate factors (mental health, substance use and life stress).

Results

Data were available for 962 participants; 6.3% had been exposed to severe sexual abuse and 6.4% to severe physical abuse in childhood. After adjustment for confounding and time-dynamic covariate factors, those exposed to severe sexual abuse had rates of abnormal thought and abnormal perception symptoms that were 2.25 and 4.08 times higher, respectively than the ‘no exposure’ group. There were no significant associations between exposure to severe physical abuse and psychotic experiences.

Conclusions

Findings indicate that exposure to severe childhood sexual (but not physical) abuse is independently associated with an increased risk of psychotic experiences in adulthood (particularly symptoms of abnormal perception) and this association could not be fully accounted for by confounding or time-dynamic covariate factors.

Declaration of interest

None.

Copyright
Corresponding author
Correspondence: Caroline Bell, Department of Psychological Medicine, University of Otago, Christchurch, PO Box 4345, Christchurch 8140, New Zealand. Email: caroline.bell@otago.ac.nz
References
Hide All
1Linscott, RJ, van Os, J. An updated and conservative systematic review and meta-analysis of epidemiological evidence on psychotic experiences in children and adults: on the pathway from proneness to persistence to dimensional expression across mental disorders. Psychol Med 2013; 43: 1133–49.
2McGrath, JJ, Saha, S, Al-Hamzawi, A, Alonso, J, Bromet, EJ, Bruffaerts, R, et al. Psychotic experiences in the general population: a cross-national analysis based on 31,261 respondents from 18 countries. JAMA Psychiatry 2015; 72: 697705.
3Stochl, J, Khandaker, GM, Lewis, G, Perez, J, Goodyer, IM, Zammit, S, et al. Mood, anxiety and psychotic phenomena measure a common psychopathological factor. Psychol Med 2015; 45: 1483–93.
4Trotta, A, Murray, RM, Fisher, HL. The impact of childhood adversity on the persistence of psychotic symptoms: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Psychol Med 2015; 45: 2481–98.
5Varese, F, Smeets, F, Drukker, M, Lieverse, R, Lataster, T, Viechtbauer, W, et al. Childhood adversities increase the risk of psychosis: a meta-analysis of patient-control, prospective- and cross-sectional cohort studies. Schizophr Bull 2012; 38: 661–71.
6Bentall, RP, Wickham, S, Shevlin, M, Varese, F. Do specific early-life adversities lead to specific symptoms of psychosis? A study from the 2007 the Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey. Schizophr Bull 2012; 38: 734–40.
7Kessler, RC, McLaughlin, KA, Green, JG, Gruber, MJ, Sampson, NA, Zaslavsky, AM, et al. Childhood adversities and adult psychopathology in the WHO World Mental Health Surveys. Br J Psychiatry 2010; 197: 378–85.
8Varghese, D, Scott, J, Welham, J, Bor, W, Najman, J, O'Callaghan, M, et al. Psychotic-like experiences in major depression and anxiety disorders: a population-based survey in young adults. Schizophr Bull 2011; 37: 389–93.
9Jones, HJ, Gage, SH, Heron, J, Hickman, M, Lewis, G, Munafo, MR, et al. Association of combined patterns of tobacco and cannabis use in adolescence with psychotic experiences. JAMA Psychiatry 2018; 75: 240–6.
10Collip, D, Wigman, JT, Myin-Germeys, I, Jacobs, N, Derom, C, Thiery, E, et al. From epidemiology to daily life: linking daily life stress reactivity to persistence of psychotic experiences in a longitudinal general population study. PLoS One 2013; 8: e62688.
11Fergusson, DM, Horwood, LJ. The Christchurch Health and Development Study: review of findings on child and adolescent mental health. Aust N Z J Psychiatry 2001; 35: 287–96.
12Fergusson, DM, Lynskey, MT, Horwood, LJ. Childhood sexual abuse and psychiatric disorder in young adulthood: I. Prevalence of sexual abuse and factors associated with sexual abuse. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 1996; 35: 1355–64.
13Fergusson, DM, Horwood, LJ, Woodward, LJ. The stability of child abuse reports: a longitudinal study of the reporting behaviour of young adults. Psychol Med 2000; 30: 529–44.
14Fergusson, DM, Lynskey, MT. Physical punishment/maltreatment during childhood and adjustment in young adulthood. Child Abuse Negl 1997; 21: 617–30.
15Robins, LN, Cottler, L, Bucholz, K, Compton, W, North, CS, Rourke, KM. The Diagnostic Interview Schedule for DSM-IV (DIS-IV). Washington University School of Medicine, 2000.
16McGrath, JJ, McLaughlin, KA, Saha, S, Aguilar-Gaxiola, S, Al-Hamzawi, A, Alonso, J, et al. The association between childhood adversities and subsequent first onset of psychotic experiences: a cross-national analysis of 23 998 respondents from 17 countries. Psychol Med 2017; 47: 1230–45.
17Bebbington, P, Jonas, S, Kuipers, E, King, M, Cooper, C, Brugha, T, et al. Childhood sexual abuse and psychosis: data from a cross-sectional national psychiatric survey in England. Br J Psychiatry 2011; 199: 2937.
18McGrath, JJ, Saha, S, Al-Hamzawi, A, Andrade, L, Benjet, C, Bromet, EJ, et al. The bidirectional associations between psychotic experiences and DSM-IV mental disorders. Am J Psychiatry 2016; 173: 9971006.
19Cutajar, MC, Mullen, PE, Ogloff, JR, Thomas, SD, Wells, DL, Spataro, J. Schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders in a cohort of sexually abused children. Arch Gen Psychiatry 2010; 67: 1114–9.
20van Dam, DS, van Nierop, M, Viechtbauer, W, Velthorst, E, van Winkel, R, Genetic, R, et al. Childhood abuse and neglect in relation to the presence and persistence of psychotic and depressive symptomatology. Psychol Med 2015; 45: 1363–77.
21Faravelli, C, Gorini Amedei, S, Rotella, F, Faravelli, L, Palla, A, Consoli, G, et al. Childhood traumata, Dexamethasone Suppression Test and psychiatric symptoms: a trans-diagnostic approach. Psychol Med 2010; 40: 2037–48.
22Habets, P, Marcelis, M, Gronenschild, E, Drukker, M, van Os, J, Genetic, R, et al. Reduced cortical thickness as an outcome of differential sensitivity to environmental risks in schizophrenia. Biol Psychiatry 2011; 69: 487–94.
23van Winkel, R, Stefanis, NC, Myin-Germeys, I. Psychosocial stress and psychosis. A review of the neurobiological mechanisms and the evidence for gene-stress interaction. Schizophr Bull 2008; 34: 1095–105.
24Bentall, RP, de Sousa, P, Varese, F, Wickham, S, Sitko, K, Haarmans, M, et al. From adversity to psychosis: pathways and mechanisms from specific adversities to specific symptoms. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 2014; 49: 1011–22.
25van Nierop, M, van Os, J, Gunther, N, Myin-Germeys, I, de Graaf, R, ten Have, M, et al. Phenotypically continuous with clinical psychosis, discontinuous in need for care: evidence for an extended psychosis phenotype. Schizophr Bull 2012; 38: 231–8.
26Fisher, HL, Craig, TK, Fearon, P, Morgan, K, Dazzan, P, Lappin, J, et al. Reliability and comparability of psychosis patients’ retrospective reports of childhood abuse. Schizophr Bull 2011; 37: 546–53.
27Derogatis, LR, Lipman, RS, Covi, L. SCL-90: an outpatient psychiatric rating scale--preliminary report. Psychopharmacol Bull 1973; 9: 1328.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

The British Journal of Psychiatry
  • ISSN: 0007-1250
  • EISSN: 1472-1465
  • URL: /core/journals/the-british-journal-of-psychiatry
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Keywords

Type Description Title
WORD
Supplementary materials

Bell et al. supplementary material
Bell et al. supplementary material 1

 Word (42 KB)
42 KB

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed

Childhood abuse and psychotic experiences in adulthood: findings from a 35-year longitudinal study

  • Caroline J. Bell (a1), James A. Foulds (a2), L. John Horwood (a3), Roger T. Mulder (a4) and Joseph M. Boden (a5)...
Submit a response

eLetters

No eLetters have been published for this article.

×

Reply to: Submit a response


Your details


Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *