Childhood cognitive function and adult psychopathology: associations with psychotic and non-psychotic symptoms in the general population

Jennifer H. Barnett (Lead / Corresponding author), Fiona McDougall, Man K. Xu, Tim J. Croudace, Marcus Richards, Peter B. Jones

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    29 Citations (Scopus)


    BACKGROUND: Lower cognitive ability in childhood is associated with increased risk of future schizophrenia, but its relationship with adult psychotic-like experiences and other psychopathology is less understood. AIMS: To investigate whether this childhood risk factor is shared with adult subclinical psychiatric phenotypes including psychotic-like experiences and general psychiatric morbidity. METHOD: A population-based sample of participants born in Great Britain during 1 week in March 1946 was contacted up to 20 times between ages 6 weeks and 53 years. Cognition was assessed at ages 8, 11 and 15 years using a composite of age-appropriate verbal and non-verbal cognitive tests. At age 53 years, psychotic-like experiences were self-reported by 2918 participants using four items from the Psychosis Screening Questionnaire and general psychiatric morbidity was assessed using the scaled version of the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-28). RESULTS: Psychotic-like experiences were reported by 22% of participants, and were highly comorbid with other psychopathology. Their presence in adults was significantly associated with poorer childhood cognitive test scores at ages 8 and 15 years, and marginally so at age 11 years. In contrast, high GHQ scores were not associated with poorer childhood cognition after adjustment for the presence of psychotic-like experiences. CONCLUSIONS: Psychotic and non-psychotic psychopathologic symptoms are highly comorbid in the general population. Lower childhood cognitive ability is a risk factor for psychotic-like experiences in mid-life; these phenomena may be one end of a continuum of phenotypic expression driven by variation in early neurodevelopment.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)124-130
    Number of pages7
    JournalBritish Journal of Psychiatry
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Aug 2012


    • Psychiatry and Mental health


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