Determinants of outcome in the pathways through care for children hearing voices


A Escher, Department of Psychiatry and Neuropsychology, Maastricht University, PO BOX 616, 6200 MD Maastricht, The Netherlands


Auditory hallucination, or hearing voices, is generally associated with psychopathology. In psychiatry it is inter-preted as a symptom of an illness, with no connection to the individual's life history. Voice hallucinations in childhood occur in a variety of contexts and have variable long-term outcomes. Little is known about the course of the experience. In this study, 80 children and youngsters hearing voices were interviewed on four occasions over a period of three years about the content of the voices and their overall experience of voices, focusing on the determinants for a promising outcome in the pathways through care. The results indicate that the need for care in the context of the experience of voices is associated not only with high levels of problem behaviour and associated negative symptoms of psychosis, but also, independently, with an appraisal of the voices in terms of anxiety, depression, dissociation and frequency of occurrence. In 60 per cent of the participants the voices disappeared during the three-year research period. The relationship between the disappearance of voices and the course of mental health treatment is, however, ambiguous.