Psychotic experiences and future school performance in childhood: a population-based cohort study

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BACKGROUND: Psychotic experiences are common in childhood and an important risk indicator of adverse mental health outcomes. However, little is known about the association of psychotic experiences with functional outcomes in childhood, particularly regarding school performance. The aim of the present study was to examine whether psychotic experiences were prospectively related to school performance in childhood.

METHODS: This study was embedded in the population-based Generation R Study (N = 2,362). Psychotic experiences were assessed using self-reports on hallucinations at age 10 years. School performance was assessed using a standardized national school performance test at age 12 years. We considered the total school performance score, as well as language and mathematics subscales. Analyses were adjusted for sociodemographic characteristics, maternal nonverbal IQ, nonverbal IQ at age 6 years and co-occurring psychopathology at age 10 years.

RESULTS: Psychotic experiences were prospectively associated with poorer school performance scores (B = -0.61, 95% CI [-0.98;-0.25], p = .001), as well as poorer language (Bpercentile rank score = -2.00, 95% CI [-3.20;-0.79], p = .001) and mathematical ability (Bpercentile rank score = -1.75, 95% CI [-2.99;-0.51], p = .006). These associations remained after additional adjustment for nonverbal IQ at age 6 years (B = -0.51, 95% CI [-0.86;-0.16], p = .005), and co-occurring internalizing (B = -0.40, 95% CI [-0.77;-0.03], p = .036) and externalizing problems (B = -0.40, 95% CI [-0.75;-0.04], p = .029), but not attention problems (B = -0.10, 95% CI [-0.47;0.26], p = .57).

CONCLUSIONS: Children with psychotic experiences had lower school performance scores than their nonaffected peers. The finding was independent of sociodemographic characteristics, intelligence and co-occurring internalizing and externalizing problems, but not attention problems. This study suggests that psychotic experiences are associated with childhood functional impairments, although the relatively small effects and the role of attention problems warrant further exploration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)357-365
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021

Bibliographical note

© 2020 The Authors. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Association for Child and Adolescent Mental Health.

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