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Sexual assault and psychosis in two large general population samples: is childhood and adolescence a developmental window of sensitivity?
Background: Research has shown a strong relationship between psychosis and sexual assault. Theories on developmental trauma as a causal factor for psychosis suggest that exposure to sexual trauma in childhood would have a stronger association with psychosis than sexual trauma in adulthood. We hypothesized that exposure to sexual trauma earlier in childhood and adolescence would be more strongly associated with hallucinations, delusional beliefs and psychotic disorder than sexual trauma that occurred later in life.
Methods: Using the 2007 and 2014 Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Surveys (N = 14,949) we calculated the prevalence of sexual assault, hallucinations, delusional beliefs, and psychotic disorder. We used logistic regression to examine the relationship between age of exposure to sexual assault (first exposure <16 vs first exposure ≥16) and odds of hallucinations, delusions, and psychotic disorder.
Results: Sexual assault at any age was associated with an increased odds of hallucinations (aOR = 2.00, 95%CI = 1.63-2.46), delusional beliefs (aOR = 2.55, 95%CI = 2.24-2.89) and psychotic disorder (aOR = 5.28, 95%CI = 3.59-7.76). There was no significant difference, however, in the prevalence of hallucinations, delusional beliefs or psychotic disorders in individuals first exposed to sexual assault <16 and individuals first exposed ≥16.
Conclusions: Contrary to our hypothesis, we did not find evidence that exposure to sexual assault in childhood and adolescence was more strongly associated with hallucinations, delusional beliefs or psychotic disorder than exposure to sexual assault age >16. Our findings do not support the idea that childhood and adolescence are uniquely sensitive periods for the emergence of psychotic experiences or psychotic disorder in relation to sexual trauma.
Strategic Academic Recruitment (StAR) award from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland
European Research Council Consolidator Award (724809, iHEAR)
Irish Health Research Board (ECSA-2020-05)
St John of God Research Foundation clg (project grant 2021)
Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) Veni grant no. 016.156.019
CommentsThe original article is available at https://www.sciencedirect.com/
Published CitationYates K. et al. Sexual assault and psychosis in two large general population samples: is childhood and adolescence a developmental window of sensitivity? Schizophr Res. 2022;241:78-82
Publication Date26 January 2022
- Beaumont Hospital
- Neurological and Psychiatric Disorders
- Accepted Version (Postprint)