Declining Social, Communication Skills May Predict Adolescent Psychotic Experiences

black and white, bipolar
black and white, bipolar
A study sought to clarify the association between early childhood developmental skills and the incidence of psychotic disorder in adolescence.

Declining social and communication skills may predict psychotic experiences in early adolescence, according to findings published in Frontiers in Psychology.

The study included children enrolled in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) who participated in a semistructured interview to assess psychotic experiences at age 12 years (n=6790). The participants were then divided into 3 groups: psychotic experiences not present (n=5862), psychotic experiences suspected (n=544), and psychotic experiences definitely present (n=384).

To measure child development, the researchers used parental reports at 6, 18, 20, and 42 months of age that included a questionnaire of items from the Denver Developmental Screening Test-II. The researchers used latent class growth analysis to generate trajectories over time for measures of fine and gross motor development, social skills, and communication skills.

Participants with definite or suspected psychotic experiences had significantly decreased social skills at 42 months compared with participants without psychotic experiences. Participants with suspected psychotic experiences were more likely to have a declining pattern of social skills over time (adjusted odds ratio, 1.28; 95% CI, 1.10-1.92) compared with participants with definite or no psychotic experiences.

The researchers found an association between definite or suspected psychotic experiences and declining communication skills (adjusted odds ratio, 1.12; 95% CI = 1.03-1.22).

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The results indicated that there was no evidence of an association between fine motor skills or gross motor skills and psychotic experiences.

“Within the context of the wide range of other risk factors identified for schizophrenia-spectrum disorders, it seems unlikely that the developmental domains examined in this study are key causal factors in the pathogenesis of [psychotic experiences] and/or psychosis in general,” the researchers wrote. “Instead, consistent with neurodevelopmental models of the casual mechanism leading to psychosis, subtle developmental differences are more likely to reflect…broader pathological processes.”


Hameed MA, Lingam R, Zammit S, et al. Trajectories of early childhood developmental skills and early adolescent psychotic experiences: findings from the ALSPAC UK birth cohort. Front Psychol. 2018;8:2314