Childhood trauma and real-world social experiences in psychosis

Lisa R. Steenkamp, Emma M. Parrish, Samantha A. Chalker, Varsha D. Badal, Amy E. Pinkham, Philip D. Harvey, Colin A. Depp*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Childhood trauma is associated with a variety of negative outcomes in psychosis, but it is unclear clear if childhood trauma affects day-to-day social experiences. We aimed to examine the association between childhood trauma and functional and structural characteristics of real-world social relationships in psychosis. Methods: Participants with psychotic disorders or affective disorders with psychosis completed ecological momentary assessments (EMAs) over ten days (N = 209). Childhood trauma was assessed retrospectively using the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire. Associations between childhood trauma and EMA-assessed social behavior and perceptions were examined using linear mixed models. Analyses were adjusted for sociodemographic characteristics and psychotic and depressive symptom severity. Results: Higher levels of childhood trauma were associated with more perceived threat (B = −0.19, 95 % CI [−0.33, −0.04]) and negative self-perception (B = −0.18, 95 % CI [−0.34, −0.01]) during recent social interactions, as well as reduced social motivation (B = −0.29, 95 % CI [−0.47, −0.10]), higher desire for social avoidance (B = 0.34, 95 % CI [0.14, 0.55]), and lower sense of belongingness (B = −0.24, 95 % CI [−0.42, −0.06]). These negative social perceptions were mainly linked with emotional abuse and emotional neglect. In addition, paranoia was more strongly associated with negative social perceptions in individuals with high versus low levels of trauma. Childhood trauma was not associated with frequency (i.e., time spent alone) or type of social interactions. Conclusion: Childhood trauma – particularly emotional abuse and neglect – is associated with negative social perceptions but not frequency of real-world social interactions. Our findings suggest that childhood trauma may affect day-to-day social experiences beyond its association with psychosis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)279-286
Number of pages8
JournalSchizophrenia Research
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information: This work was supported by the National Institute of Mental Health (grant numbers NIMH R01 MH116902-01A1 and NIMH R21 MH116104 ). This project was further supported by the Academy Ter Meulen grant of the Academy Medical Sciences Fund , Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts & Sciences (LRS) and the Foundation “De Drie Lichten” in The Netherlands (LRS). The funding sources had no involvement in the analysis or interpretation of data, the writing of the report, and the decision to submit the article for publication.

Publisher Copyright: © 2022


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