08:21pm Sunday 13 October 2019

Childhood Psychotic Symptoms

The study of 12-year-olds asked whether they had ever seen things or heard voices that weren’t really there, and then asked careful follow-up questions. The results, published in April’s Archives of General Psychiatry, found that nearly 6 per cent may be showing at least one definite symptom of psychosis.

The children who exhibited these symptoms had many of the same risk factors that are known to correlate with adult schizophrenia, including genetic, social, neurodevelopmental, family environment and behavioural risks.

‘We don’t want to be unduly alarmist, but this is also not something to dismiss,’
said co-author Professor Terrie Moffitt, IoP and Duke University. ‘It looks like a non-trivial minority of children report these symptoms.’

The children were participants in the long-term Environmental Risk Longitudinal Twin Study, which includes 2,232 children who have been tracked since age 5 and reassessed at 7, 10 and 12.  The study stems from research that the same group did earlier with a long-term cohort in Dunedin, New Zealand – the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study.

At age 11, those children were asked about psychotic symptoms, but the researchers waited 15 years to see how, as adults, their symptoms matched what they reported at 11. By age 26, half of the people who self-reported symptoms at age 11 were found to be psychotic as adults.

‘The findings provide more clues to the development of schizophrenia, but do not solve any questions by themselves’, said Professor Avshalom Caspi, IoP and Duke University, ‘psychotic symptoms in childhood also can be a marker of impaired developmental processes, and are something caregivers should look for. There is not much you can do except monitoring and surveillance but we feel we should be alerting clinicians that there’s a minority to pay attention to.’

The research was supported by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, UK Medical Research Council, The National Alliance of Research on Schizophrenia and Depression, the Health Research Board of Ireland and the William T. Grant Foundation.

‘Etiological and Clinical Features of Childhood Psychotic Symptoms’, Guilherme Polanczyk et al, Archives of General Psychiatry, April 2010 can be downloaded here.

Notes to editors

King’s College London
King’s College London is one of the top 25 universities in the world (Times Higher Education 2009) and the fourth oldest in England. A research-led university based in the heart of London, King’s has nearly 23,000 students (of whom more than 8,600 are graduate students) from nearly 140 countries, and some 5,500 employees. King’s is in the second phase of a £1 billion redevelopment programme which is transforming its estate.

King’s has an outstanding reputation for providing world-class teaching and cutting-edge research. In the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise for British universities, 23 departments were ranked in the top quartile of British universities; over half of our academic staff work in departments that are in the top 10 per cent in the UK in their field and can thus be classed as world leading. The College is in the top seven UK universities for research earnings and has an overall annual income of nearly £450 million.

King’s has a particularly distinguished reputation in the humanities, law, the sciences (including a wide range of health areas such as psychiatry, medicine and dentistry) and social sciences including international affairs. It has played a major role in many of the advances that have shaped modern life, such as the discovery of the structure of DNA and research that led to the development of radio, television, mobile phones and radar. It is the largest centre for the education of healthcare professionals in Europe; no university has more Medical Research Council Centres.

King’s College London and Guy’s and St Thomas’, King’s College Hospital and South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trusts are part of King’s Health Partners. King’s Health Partners Academic Health Sciences Centre (AHSC) is a pioneering global collaboration between one of the world’s leading research-led universities and three of London’s most successful NHS Foundation Trusts, including leading teaching hospitals and comprehensive mental health services. For more information, visit: www.kingshealthpartners.org.

Further information
Louise Pratt, Acting Public Relations and Communications Manager NIHR Biomedical Research Centre for Mental Health and Institute of Psychiatry
Tel: +44 20 7848 5378
Email: louise.a.pratt@kcl.ac.uk

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