Childhood adversity and incident psychotic experiences in early adulthood: cognitive and psychopathological mediators

Andrea P Cortes Hidalgo*, Gemma L Hammerton, Jon E Heron, Koen Bolhuis, Paul C Madley-Dowd, Henning Tiemeier, Marinus H van IJzendoorn, Stanley Zammit, Hannah J Jones

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


Background and Hypothesis
Childhood adversity is often described as a potential cause of incident psychotic experiences, but the underlying mechanisms are not well understood. We aimed to examine the mediating role of cognitive and psychopathological factors in the relation between childhood adversity and incident psychotic experiences in early adulthood.

Study Design
We analyzed data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, a large population-based cohort study. Childhood adversity was measured prospectively from birth to age 11 years, mediators (anxiety, depression, external locus of control [LoC], negative symptoms) were assessed at approximately 16 years of age, and incident psychotic experiences were assessed at ages 18 and 24 years. Mediation was examined via the counterfactual g-computation formula.

Study Results
In total, 7% of participants had incident suspected or definite psychotic experiences in early adulthood. Childhood adversity was related to more incident psychotic experiences (ORadjusted = 1.34, 95% CI = 1.21; 1.49), and this association was partially mediated via all mediators examined (proportion mediated: 19.9%). In separate analyses for each mediator, anxiety, depression, external LoC, and negative symptoms were all found to mediate the link between adversity and incident psychotic experiences. Accounting for potential confounders did not modify our results.

Our study shows that cognitive biases as well as mood symptomatology may be on the causal pathway between early-life adversity and the development of psychotic experiences. Future studies should determine which mediating factors are most easily modifiable and most likely to reduce the risk of developing psychotic experiences.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbersbae023
Number of pages10
JournalSchizophrenia Bulletin
Early online date4 Mar 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 4 Mar 2024


  • psychosis
  • childhood adversity
  • trauma
  • locus of control
  • mediation


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