B4557 - Investigating the relationships linking adverse childhood experiences to psychotic-like experiences - 11/03/2024

B number: 
Principal applicant name: 
James Kirkbride | UCL
Ms Georgie Hudson
Title of project: 
Investigating the relationships linking adverse childhood experiences to psychotic-like experiences
Proposal summary: 

Psychosis is a severe mental health problem whereby sufferers lose some contact with reality. Two main symptoms of psychosis are hallucinations, where people hear or see something that others cannot, and delusions, where a person has strong beliefs that are not shared by others. People with a psychotic disorder are approximately 2-3 times as likely to have had adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) compared to those without this diagnosis. However, the exact mechanisms linking childhood trauma to psychosis and whether certain characteristics can reduce this risk are unknown. The prevalence of psychotic symptoms reduces from childhood into early adulthood, suggesting that most psychotic experiences in young people are short-term. However, less is known about what factors may predict the persistence of these symptoms. Much of the literature investigating the role of ACEs in the onset of psychosis has been based on study designs which only provide weak evidence about causation. For example, much of the literature relies on case-control studies which can only detect associations, rather than causal relationships between ACEs and psychosis, as a third, unaccounted variable may explain the association.

This project will examine:
(1) The trajectories of psychotic experiences from childhood into early adulthood and whether exposure to ACEs predicts the persistence of symptoms;
(2) whether social factors and cannabis use make the relationship between ACEs and psychosis stronger or weaker; and
(3) pathways linking ACEs to psychosis, namely cannabis use, self-esteem and PTSS (posttraumatic stress symptoms).

Impact of research: 
We expect to see that the number of young people with psychotic-like experiences declines from ages 12-24. We aim to gain some understanding of why this is, and which social exposures increase the risk of experiencing long-term psychotic symptoms. This may have useful clinical applications to mitigate against the development of psychotic disorders. The use of interaction terms will help improve our understanding of how social mechanisms impact the relationship between early life experiences and later development of psychotic experiences. The identification of modifiable risk factors means this research has the potential to improve the mental health of young people. In order to maximise the impact of my research, I plan to: (1) Publish at least three open-access publications in highly regarded, peer-reviewed journals with a broad readership. (2) Disseminate findings via oral and poster presentations at international psychiatry/epidemiology conferences with a wide audience, such as the Annual Congress of the Schizophrenia International Research Society, and The Congress of the Epidemiology and Social Psychiatry Section of the European Psychiatric Association. (3) Liaise with internal and external press and communications teams to maximise the impact of the findings. (4) Prepare blogs on my findings to ensure that they are available freely outside of academia on websites such as The Mental Elf Foundation.
Date proposal received: 
Thursday, 29 February, 2024
Date proposal approved: 
Monday, 11 March, 2024
Mental health - Psychology, Psychiatry, Cognition, Mental health, Computer simulations/modelling/algorithms, Statistical methods, Childhood - childcare, childhood adversity, Environment - enviromental exposure, pollution, Genetics, Metabolic - metabolism, Social science, Statistical methods