Childhood trauma and prodromal symptoms among individuals at clinical high risk for psychosis

Judy L. Thompson, Meredith Kelly, David Kimhy, Jill M. Harkavy-Friedman, Shamir Khan, Julie W. Messinger, Scott Schobel, Ray Goetz, Dolores Malaspina, Cheryl Corcoran

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

78 Scopus citations


Introduction: Numerous studies point to an association between childhood trauma and the later development of psychotic illness. However, little is known about the prevalence of childhood trauma and its relationship to attenuated positive and other symptoms in individuals at heightened clinical risk for psychosis. Method: Thirty clinical high-risk patients (83% male, 43% Caucasian, and with a mean age of 19) were ascertained from the New York metropolitan area and evaluated for prodromal and affective symptoms, and queried regarding experiences of childhood trauma and abuse. Results: Ninety-seven percent endorsed at least one general trauma experience, 83% reported physical abuse, 67% emotional abuse, and 27% sexual abuse. As hypothesized, total trauma exposure was positively associated with severity of attenuated positive symptoms (in particular grandiosity), an effect primarily accounted for by ethnic minority participants, who reported greater exposure to trauma. Trauma exposure was related to affective symptoms only in the Caucasian subgroup. Conclusions: Childhood trauma was commonly self-reported, especially among clinical high-risk patients from ethnic minorities, for whom trauma was related to positive symptoms. Future areas of research include an evaluation of potential mechanisms for this relationship, including neuroendocrine and subcortical dopaminergic function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)176-181
Number of pages6
JournalSchizophrenia Research
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2009
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


  • Ethnicity
  • Prodromal
  • Psychosis
  • Risk
  • Schizophrenia
  • Trauma

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    Thompson, J. L., Kelly, M., Kimhy, D., Harkavy-Friedman, J. M., Khan, S., Messinger, J. W., Schobel, S., Goetz, R., Malaspina, D., & Corcoran, C. (2009). Childhood trauma and prodromal symptoms among individuals at clinical high risk for psychosis. Schizophrenia Research, 108(1-3), 176-181.