• childhood abuse;
  • risk factor;
  • psychosis

Objective: To examine the hypothesis that individuals from the general population who report childhood abuse are at increased risk of developing positive psychotic symptoms.

Method: Data were derived from a general population sample of 4045 subjects aged 18–64 years. First ever onset of positive psychotic symptoms at 2-year follow-up were assessed using the Composite International Diagnostic Interview and additional clinical interviews if necessary. Childhood abuse was assessed at baseline.

Results: Baseline reported childhood abuse predicted development of positive psychotic symptoms associated with need for care [odds ratio (OR) = 11.5, 95% CI 2.6–51.6]. This association remained after adjustment for demographic variables, reported risk factors and presence of any lifetime psychiatric diagnosis at baseline (OR = 7.3, 95% CI 1.1–49.0).

Conclusion: The results suggest that early childhood trauma increases the risk for positive psychotic symptoms. This finding fits well with recent models that suggest that early adversities may lead to psychological and biological changes that increase psychosis vulnerability.