Sideli L, Mule A, La Barbera D, Murray RM.
Psychiatry Investig. 2012 Jun;9(2):87-99.
INTRODUCTION: Although childhood abuse is a recognised risk factor for depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and substance misuse, its role in the aetiology of psychotic disorder remained controversial. This is in part because the putative effect of childhood trauma on psychosis has been mostly evaluated by small, cross sectional, uncontrolled studies that raised methodological issues. METHODS: Papers concerning the association between childhood trauma and psychotic disorders (to November, 2011) were identified using a comprehensive search of PubMed, Psychinfo, and Scopus and analysing reference list of relevant papers. A narrative synthesis was used to summarise results. RESULTS: An association between childhood abuse and psychotic symptoms was consistently reported by large cross sectional surveys with an effect ranging from 1.7 to 15. However, we cannot conclude that the relationship is causal as lack of longitudinal studies prevent us from fully excluding alternative explanations such as reverse causality. Gender, cannabis use, and depressive and post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms appear to moderate the effect of childhood trauma on psychotic disorders. However, specificity of childhood abuse in psychotic disorders and, particularly, in schizophrenia has not been demonstrated. CONCLUSION: Although the association between childhood abuse and psychosis has been replicated, the etiological role of such early adversity has yet to be fully clarified. So far none of the studies reported support the hypothesis that childhood abuse is either sufficient or necessary to develop a psychotic disorder. It seems likely that any effect of childhood abuse on schizophrenia needs to be understood in terms of genetic susceptibility and interaction with other environmental risk factors.