Exposure to trauma in childhood may be associated with an increased chance of having psychotic experiences in early adulthood, according to results from a study published in JAMA Psychiatry.

Researchers conducted a population-based, prospective cohort study of 4433 children, aged 0 to 17 years, who were exposed to trauma in a particular timeframe of childhood. The cohort data were obtained from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, which took place in the United Kingdom between 1991 and 1992. Trauma-related variables included in the analysis originated from either patient-reported or parental assessments.

After statistical analysis, the investigators found that exposure to any form of trauma between the ages of 0 and 17 years was associated with a greater chance of having psychotic experiences at age 18 years (adjusted odds ratio, 2.91; 95% CI, 2.15-3.93; P <.001). In addition, the researchers reported that exposure to trauma during adolescence, or between the ages of 11 to 17 years, was associated with having a prior-year incident psychotic event at age 18 years. In addition, the investigators note that 3 or more types of trauma exposure between ages 0 to 17 years was associated with a 4.7-fold increase in odds of psychotic experiences.

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The primary limitation of this study was substantial patient attrition, which could have introduced selection bias into the results.

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“These findings are consistent with the thesis that trauma could have a causal association with psychotic experiences,” the researchers wrote.

“Longitudinal studies that examine potentially modifiable mediators in the relationship between trauma and psychotic experiences are required to inform prevention strategies and to improve outcomes for a range of mental health disorders,” they concluded.


Croft J, Heron J, Teufel C, et al. Association of trauma type, age of exposure, and frequency in childhood and adolescence with psychotic experiences in early adulthood [published online November 21, 2018]. JAMA Psychiatry. doi: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2018.3155