Tag Archives: Childhood Trauma And Schizophrenia

Those Raised In Care Homes More Likely To Develop Paranoia

In the past, research on how schizophrenia develops in individuals focused heavily on genetic factors. However, more recent research is now making it increasingly clear that the environment in which we grew up is strongly related to our chances of developing a psychotic disorder, such as schizophrenia, in adulthood. Indeed, a meta-analysis of the relevant research, conducted at the University of Liverpool in the United Kingdom, suggests that those individuals who were brought up in the care system are at significantly increased risk of developing paranoia (often a major symptom of schizophrenia) as adults.

Schizophrenia (including, of course, paranoid schizophrenia) is a form of psychosis (psychosis involves the affected person losing touch with reality / entering delusional states). The research conducted by the University of Liverpool also revealed that those who suffered severe childhood trauma were at significantly increased risk of developing not just paranoia, but a range of psychotic conditions. One figure derived from this research is quite staggering : in cases of severe childhood trauma, the individual affected may be 5,000% (i.e. 50 times) more likely to develop psychosis than the average person.

In connection with those who had suffered any form of trauma during childhood, such individuals were found to be at a 300% (3 times higher) increased risk of developing psychosis later on in life when compared to the average.

The bottom-line is, we may conclude from this research, is that the environment (i.e. the degree to which it is experienced as traumatic) in which one grows up is strongly associated with one’s risk of developing a psychotic disorder in later life.

And, just as it has already been found that being brought up in a care home increases one’s risk of developing paranoia later in life, it is thought other specific forms of psychosis may be linked to other specific forms of childhood trauma – however, research into this area is still at an early stage.

Finally, it should also be stated that genetic factors may also play a role; for example, some individuals may be ‘genetically’ more resilient to the adverse effects of trauma than others. Further research into this area, too,  needs to be conducted so that the role of genes in the development of psychosis may be more fully understood.

In the past, people with psychotic conditions have largely been treated according to the medical model (sometimes called the biological model) of mental illness; in other words, with medication. However, the above findings suggest that non-medicinal interventions may also be vitally required, such as ‘talk therapies’- therapies of this type may help the individual to process, and come to terms with, his/her traumatic past. One such therapy is trauma-focused cognitive therapy.





David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Schizophrenia: Study Reveals Those Traumatized In Childhood Up To Fifty Times More Likely To Develop It


I remember when I was doing my first degree in psychology at the University of London that, when we studied schizophrenia, in trying to explain its causes we concentrated largely upon examining genetic explanations and, also, explanations based upon the existence of individual differences in brain chemistry and brain biology.

More recently, however, evidence has been accumulating that if an individual suffers childhood trauma then this, too, puts him/ her at greater risk of developing this most debilitating of psychiatric conditions.

Indeed, a study at the University of Liverpool and Maastricht in the Netherlands lends support to this theory. The study looked at data from three groups of people

a) individuals who were known to have suffered childhood trauma who wrre followed up in their adult lives (the study was what is known as longitudinal and examined 30 years’ worth of data)

b) psychotic individuals who were asked about their childhoods

c) randomly selected individuals (data obtained from this third group served as a comparison point against which to intetpret the data generated from the above two groups). This is also known as the control group.


– those who had suffered childhood trauma prior to the age of 16 were 3 times more likely to develop psychosis in adulthood than were the individuals from the group of randomly selected individuals (group ‘c’ above)

– the more serious the individuals’ experiences of childhood trauma were, the more likely they were to develop psychosis later on during their lives

– those who had suffered the most serious types of trauma were found to be up to 50 times more likely to go on to develop schizophrenia than individuals who had been randomly selected for the sstudy

– different kinds of trauma resulted in the development of different types of psychiatric symptoms.  For example, those individuals who had spent significant amounts of time in children’s homes were particularly likely to develop symptoms of paranoia later on during their lives


In the light of these findings, they expert Professor Bengal stressed the importance that those who were responsible for diagnosing psychiatric patients should ask them about their childhood experiences as a matter of routine.

Effects_of child_trauma_on_brain_and_psychosis_and_scizophrenia

Above: Differences in the brains of schizophrenics.

Professor Bengal also drew attention to the need for further research into the effects of childhood experiences on the physical developing brain ( click here to view details of my book on this) and also into genetic factors that may help to explain why some individuals are more resilient to the adverse effects of childhood trauma than others.

Finally, he called for further research into why symptoms of trauma often do not appear in an individual until years after the traumatic experiences have taken place. For example, a person who suffered childhood trauma between the ages of , say, eight and twelve, may not display overt psychiatric symptoms caused by it until his/her twenties.

child_trauma_and_NEUROPLASTICITY, functional_and_structural_ neuroplasticity

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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).