The Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) birth cohort as a resource for studying psychopathology in childhood and adolescence: a summary of findings for depression and psychosis

Maria Niarchou*, Stanley Zammit, Glyn Lewis

*Corresponding author for this work

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

33 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Purpose: The purpose of this study is to highlight the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) as a resource to study psychopathology. To demonstrate this, we review the studies related to depression and psychosis in childhood and adolescence and discuss the results in relation to the aetiology of depression and psychotic experiences (PEs) and possible underlying mechanisms. Methods: We examined the list of publications from ALSPAC and then classified them as examining (a) the course and risk factors of maternal and paternal depression, (b) the effects of maternal and paternal depression on child development, (c) risk factors for depression in childhood and adolescence, (d) the frequency, clinical relevance and risk factors of PEs, and (e) shared risk factors for depression and PEs. Results: There was evidence that environmental stressors and the way these are interpreted contribute to risk of depression and evidence that biological factors related to puberty are also likely to play a role. With regards to PEs, the findings further support the existence of ‘a continuum of psychosis’ while they also suggest that PEs might be of limited clinical utility in predicting psychotic disorder during adolescence and early adulthood. Finally, most risk factors examined were found to be shared between depression and PEs. Conclusions: The ALSPAC birth cohort has provided important insights for our understanding of the aetiological mechanisms underlying depression and PEs. Future research could aim to incorporate measures of automatic psychological mechanisms to provide insights into the brain mechanisms that underlie these clinical phenomena.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1017-1027
Number of pages11
JournalSocial Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology
Volume50
Issue number7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jul 2015

Keywords

  • ALSPAC
  • Birth cohort
  • Depression
  • Psychotic experiences

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