Review of the Evidence: Childhood Adversity High in Schizophrenia and Other Disorders


Researchers from Australia and the UK found that people with a schizophrenia diagnosis almost four times more likely than controls to have a history of childhood adversity. The quality of the evidence in this meta-analysis of the currently available data was found to be very strong (p<0.00001). No difference in rates of childhood adversity were found between schizophrenia and affective psychosis, depression, and personality disorders.  Rates of childhood adversity is slightly higher in dissociative disorders and PTSD. Results will appear in Psychological Medicine.

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Kermit Cole
Kermit Cole, MFT, founding editor of Mad in America, works in Santa Fe, New Mexico as a couples and family therapist. Inspired by Open Dialogue, he works as part of a team and consults with couples and families that have members identified as patients. His work in residential treatment — largely with severely traumatized and/or "psychotic" clients — led to an appreciation of the power and beauty of systemic philosophy and practice, as the alternative to the prevailing focus on individual pathology. A former film-maker, he has undergraduate and master's degrees in psychology from Harvard University, as well as an MFT degree from the Council for Relationships in Philadelphia. He is a doctoral candidate with the Taos Institute and the Free University of Brussels. You can reach him at [email protected].


  1. Unfortunately one can only imagine that this will give too many psychiatrists even more reasons to drug children in foster care. It will be preventative drugging to stop them from developing psychosis!! After that is the new thing at the moment the ability to PREVENT these disorders and there are now major government funded clinics being set up in Australia to drug those supposedly “at risk” of psychosis. One can only guess who will be the first on there hit list, when in effect they should be the last. They already have enough problems to deal with they don’t need drugs to make it even worse.

    Maybe I’m just too cynical of too much torture from the mental health system!!

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  2. Quoting from the abstract, evidence for childhood adversity being a risk factor for schizophrenia, I agree, is inconsistent and controversial. Although I don’t have access to the full study, I wonder what is meant by childhood adversity. Who doesn’t experience childhood adversity to some degree or another? Parental divorce could be considered childhood adversity, and so can a poverty stricken childhood, but many people who are given the diagnosis of schizophrenia have had what look like “normal” childhoods. Many people link schizophrenia to overt childhood trauma (as distinct from adversity), and I personally feel that even this is way too simplistic. Classic “schizophrenia,” which is observed in men earlier than in women, can also be linked to a spiritual quest, an unwillingness to enter adulthood, a healing passage. Schizophrenia defies objective analysis, but that won’t stop researchers trying to put a rational face on this extraordinary condition.

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