Early risk and protective factors and young adult outcomes in a longitudinal sample of young people with a history of psychotic‐like experiences

Aim

Psychotic‐like experiences (PEs) have been associated with childhood adversity and psychopathology. However, few studies have examined the dynamic interplay between risk and protective factors and later life outcomes in people with PEs. This study aimed to explore and compare patterns of early adverse and protective experiences and young adult outcomes in a sample of young people with a history of PEs.

Method

Longitudinal qualitative data spanning nine years were collected from a general population sample of seventeen young adults who had reported PEs in early adolescence. A qualitative comparative case study design was used to explore patterns of early life experiences and young adult outcomes.

Results

Four archetypal profiles of early life experiences and later outcomes were identified. Qualitative differences between types of early adverse experiences and the quality of attachment relationships were dominant discriminating factors between low‐risk and at‐risk archetypes for poor young adult outcomes. Experiences of multiple adversities, which included childhood trauma and occurred in the absence of secure attachment relationships was associated with the poorest young adult outcomes. The presence of secure attachment relationships was protective, even among individuals who had experienced adversity.

Conclusions

Not all young people who report PEs have high levels of adversity. Those who experience multiple early adversities, childhood trauma and insecure attachment relationships are at highest risk for reoccurring PEs and poor young adult outcomes. Developing trusted attachment relationships and engaging in corrective experiences may be protective and could promote positive outcomes in youth with PEs.