Childhood and adolescence are critical periods for the developing brain. It is also a stage full of environmental challenges and stress. The youth population is in particular vulnerable to childhood trauma that may disrupt the Hypothalamic–Pituitary–Adrenal axis and the cortisol feedback loop, and increase potential risk of developing psychotic symptoms and other psychopathologies. However, few studies have been conducted to specifically examine the interplay between risk factors and psychopathologies in non-clinical population. It is still unclear about the relationship between childhood trauma, vulnerable traits and affective symptoms in the youth population.
In order to address this unclear issue, Dr. Raymond Chan from Neuropsychology and Applied Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory, Institute of Psychology, Chinese Academy of Sciences and his collaborators have conducted a study to specifically examine the network structure and interrelationship between childhood trauma, schizotypal traits and other psychopathology in 1813 college students. All participants completed the online self-reported measures capturing childhood trauma, motivation, schizotypal traits, depressive symptoms and bipolar traits. Results from network analysis showed that childhood trauma was significantly correlated with schizotypy and motivation. Subsidiary analysis further showed that participants with high level of schizotypal traits showed higher global strength than those participants with low level of schizotypal traits though the two groups did not differ in their network structures. There was also no significant difference in the network structure between male and female participants. These findings were also replicated in an independent sample of 427 participants suggesting the robustness and stability of the findings.
Taken together, these findings suggest specific links between childhood trauma and schizotypy dimensions in the youth population. These findings help us understand the interplay between childhood trauma and development of psychopathologies. Dr. Chan’s team is now collecting transdiagnostic clinical data using the same set of questionnaires and would like to examine whether a similar but stronger connection will be exhibited by patients with various mental disorders.
This study was supported by the Jiangsu Provincial Key Research and Development Programme, the CAS Key Laboratory of Mental Health, Institute of Psychology, the Scientific Foundation of Institute of Psychology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the Phillip K.H. Wong Foundation to Raymond Chan.
This study was published on April 25, 2023 in Asian Journal of Psychiatry.
Institute of Psychology Chinese Academy of Sciences
Beijing 100101, China.