Studies of clinical populations have provided a wealth of information about the effects of childhood trauma on adult mental health. It is generally known that there is a direct correlation between early life adversities and schizophrenia among clinical populations, however, it has been unclear whether this linkage also holds for schizotypal behavior among the nonclinical population.
A new study at the University of Hertfordshire has, for the first time, demonstrated a high correlation between emotional abuse experienced as a child and schizotypal behavior in healthy people, such as paranoia, hearing voices, and social withdrawal.
What is Schizotypy?
Schizotypy is a concept that encompasses a widely defined phenotype of behaviors and symptoms similar to those of schizophrenia that is present in the general population. These phenotypic behaviors range from normal dissociative, imaginative states to extreme states of mind associated with psychosis.
In contrast to a categorical view of psychosis, in which psychosis is viewed as a particular (often pathologic) state of mind that a person either possesses or does not have, schizotypy proposes a personality continuum.
Researchers from the University of Hertfordshire, Dr. Diamantis Toutountzidis and Professor Keith Laws, a Professor of Neuropsychology at the University, examined data from 25 prior studies that examined the connection between childhood trauma and schizotypal behavior.
In this study, there were a total of 15,253 participants of which women made up two-thirds and men the remaining third.
The results of the 25 publications were examined to determine whether particular forms of abuse, increased the risk of exhibiting schizotypal behavior in later life.
Schizotypy scores were significantly associated with all forms of abuse and neglect in a manner that is consistent with a dose-response interpretation. Almost all studies and their analyses report significant positive correlations between schizotypy and various forms of abuse and neglect.
According to the study, people who experienced emotional abuse as children are 3.5 times more likely to develop schizophrenia symptoms as adults. Researchers also discovered that the intensity of the abuse correlates positively with the severity of the schizotypal behavior.
The results of this study could contribute to our understanding of the association between distinct schizotypal behaviors that manifest much later in life and particular forms of abuse that take place in childhood. Additionally, it might shed more light on why some people who encounter these kinds of abuse go on to acquire diseases like schizophrenia while others only suffer milder effects.
All of these would help mental health professionals understand the underlying factors that contribute to schizotypal attitudes in those with them.
This study shows that abuse in early life is significantly associated with schizotypal behavior in non-clinical populations and that emotional abuse is a stronger predictor of schizotypal conduct than other forms of abuse.