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Negative childhood experiences and mental health: theoretical, clinical and primary prevention implications

  • John Read (a1) and Richard P. Bentall (a2)
Summary

After decades of ignoring or minimising the prevalence and effects of negative events in childhood, researchers have recently established that a broad range of adverse childhood events are significant risk factors for most mental health problems, including psychosis. Researchers are now investigating the biological and psychological mechanisms involved. In addition to the development of a traumagenic neurodevelopmental model for psychosis, the exploration of a range of psychological processes, including attachment and dissociation, is shedding light on the specific aetiologies of discrete phenomena such as hallucinations and delusions. It is argued that the theoretical, clinical and primary prevention implications of our belated focus on childhood are profound.

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Copyright
Corresponding author
Professor John Read, Department of Psychology, Private Bag 92019, Auckland, New Zealand. Email: j.read@auckland.ac.nz
Footnotes
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See pp. 107–115, this issue.

Declaration of interest

None.

Footnotes
References
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1 Keyes, KM, Eaton, NR, Krueger, RF, McLaughlin, KA, Wall, MM, Grant, BF, et al. Child maltreatment and the structure of common psychiatric disorders. Br J Psychiatry 2012; 200: 107–15.
2 Kessler, RC, McLaughlin, KA, Greif Green, J, 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.
3 Read, J, Bentall, RP, Fosse, R. Time to abandon the bio-bio-bio model of psychosis: exploring the epigenetic and psychological mechanisms by which adverse life events lead to psychotic symptoms. Epidemiol Psichiatr Soc 2009; 18: 299310.
4 Wilkinson, R, Pickett, K. The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone. Penguin Books, 2010.
5 Read, J, Haslam, N, Sayce, L, Davies, E. Prejudice and schizophrenia: a review of the ‘Mental illness is an Illness like any other’ approach. Acta Psychiatr Scand 2006; 114: 303–18.
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9 Read, J, Perry, B, Moskowitz, A, Connolly, J. The contribution of early traumatic events to schizophrenia in some patients: a traumagenic neurodevelopmental model. Psychiatry 2001; 64: 319–45.
10 Bentall, RP, Fernyhough, C. Social predictors of psychotic experiences: specificity and psychological mechanisms. Schizophr Bull 2008; 34: 1012–20.
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12 NHS Confederation. Briefing 162: Implementing National Policy on Violence and Abuse. Ministry of Health, 2008.
13 Albee, GW. Revolutions and counter-revolutions in prevention. Am Psychol 1996; 51: 1130–3.
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The British Journal of Psychiatry
  • ISSN: 0007-1250
  • EISSN: 1472-1465
  • URL: /core/journals/the-british-journal-of-psychiatry
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Negative childhood experiences and mental health: theoretical, clinical and primary prevention implications

  • John Read (a1) and Richard P. Bentall (a2)
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eLetters

A better biological basis for psychiatry

Sebastian Kraemer, Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist
23 February 2012

Read and Bentall challenge the prevailing biological basis of modern psychiatry, but they may in effect be proposing a more thorough one in itsplace. Basing his theory on evolutionary biology John Bowlby noted that disorders can arise when the conditions for secure attachment are not met (Dozier et al 2008). Many adversities from conception onwards, mediated inpart by stress hormones, have an impact on subsequent health and development (Beijers et al 2010, Smith et al 2007, Murray et al 2011). These connections point to the need for early interventions - from perinatal onwards - to reduce later psychopathology.

references Dozier M, Stovall-McClough C, Albus K. (2008) Attachment and psychopathology in adulthood. In (eds) J Cassidy & P Shaver, Handbook of Attachment 2nd edition, New York/London Guilford Press, 718-744)

Beijers R, Jansen J, Riksen-Walraven M, de Weerth C. (2010) Maternal prenatal anxiety and stress predict infant illnesses and health complaints. Pediatrics 126;e401-e409 doi: 10.1542/peds.2009-3226

Smith LK, Draper ES, Manktelow BN, Dorling JS, Field DJ (2007) Socioeconomic inequalities in very preterm birth rates. Archives of Disease in Childhood - Fetal and Neonatal Edition, 92, F11-F14.

Murray L, Arteche A, Fearon P, Halligan S, Goodyer I, Cooper P (2011)Maternal Postnatal Depression and the Development of Depression in Offspring Up to 16 Years of Age. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry 50 (5): 460 doi: 10.1016/j.jaac.2011.02.001

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Conflict of interest: None declared

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