Summary: The study shows a strong association between childhood emotional abuse and an increased risk of developing schizophrenia-like symptoms in adulthood.
Source: University of Hertfordshire
A new study from the University of Hertfordshire has identified for the first time a strong link between childhood emotional abuse and schizophrenia-like experiences in healthy adults, such as paranoia, hearing voices and social withdrawal.
Researchers say those who experienced emotional abuse when they were young are 3.5 times more likely to have schizophrenia-like experiences in adulthood. Researchers also say that the more severe the abuse, the more severe the schizophrenia-like experiences adults have.
The study, published in PLUS ONEis the first to summarize and quantify studies (25 in total) that have examined the relationship between childhood trauma and schizophrenia-like experiences in over 15,000 healthy people.
Researchers from the University of Hertfordshire analyzed the results of previous research to determine whether certain types of abuse, such as emotional, sexual and physical abuse and emotional and physical neglect, increase the likelihood of having schizophrenia-like experiences later in life.
They found a much stronger association between childhood emotional abuse and schizophrenic experiences in adulthood than other types of childhood abuse.
The relationship between childhood trauma and schizophrenia, a serious mental illness, is well known. However, far less research has examined the impact of childhood trauma on the prevalence of less severe schizophrenia-like experiences in healthy adults.
The researchers believe their findings could show that schizophrenia is a condition on a spectrum, like autism, in which healthy people can have schizophrenia-like episodes without reaching the diagnosable threshold.
dr Diamantis Toutountzidis, a researcher at the University of Hertfordshire, led this study under the supervision of Keith Laws, professor of neuropsychology at the university.
dr Toutountzidis says that “emotional abuse is different from other types of abuse. It is more common, often occurs over longer periods of time, and is not legally treated in the same way as physical or sexual abuse.”
“Our research has shown a significant association between childhood emotional abuse and schizophrenia-like experiences in healthy adults, and that emotional abuse is a stronger predictor of schizophrenia-like experiences than other types of abuse.
“This is something mental health professionals should consider when trying to address the root causes of schizophrenia-like experiences in people who suffer from it.”
Professor Laws added that her “research has opened the door for future studies that will help better understand how certain types of childhood abuse are linked to certain schizophrenia-like experiences much later in life.” It will also help us understand why such trauma is associated with disorders such as schizophrenia for some, while others have milder, more manageable experiences.”
About this news from abuse and psychology research
Author: press office
Source: University of Hertfordshire
Contact: Press Office – University of Hertfordshire
Picture: The image is in the public domain
Original research: Open access.
“Childhood trauma and schizotypy in nonclinical specimens: A systematic review and meta-analysis” by Diamantis Toutountzidis et al. PLUS ONE
Childhood trauma and schizotypy in nonclinical specimens: A systematic review and meta-analysis
The association of early life adversity and symptoms of psychosis is well documented in clinical populations; however, it remains unclear whether this connection also extends to subclinical psychoses. In particular, is early-life adversity associated with increases in schizotypal personality traits in non-clinical samples?
We performed a systematic review and meta-analysis of the associations between early-life adversity and psychometrically defined schizotypal traits in non-clinical samples. The review followed PRISMA guidelines.
Searches of the PubMed, Web of Science and EBSCO databases identified a total of 1,609 articles. Twenty-five studies (N = 15,253 participants) met the eligibility criteria for the review. An assessment of study quality showed that less than half of all studies were classified as methodologically robust.
Meta-analysis showed that all forms of child abuse (emotional, physical, and sexual) and neglect (emotional and physical) were significantly associated with psychometric schizotypy. The association of schizotypal traits with childhood emotional abuse (r=0.33: 95% CI 0.30 to 0.37) was significantly greater than for any other form of abuse or neglect. Meta-regression analyzes showed that the relationship between physical abuse and schizotypy was stronger in samples with more female participants; and the relationship between sexual abuse and schizotypy was stronger in younger samples.
The current review identifies a dose-response relationship between all forms of abuse/neglect and schizotypal scores in non-clinical samples; However, it showed a stronger association for emotional abuse. Further research is needed to examine the relationship between trauma types and specific symptom types.
Future research should also address male underrepresentation.