Are psychotic experiences linked with early school performance?

Last updated 19 October 2020

Lisa Steemkamp and colleagues in The Netherlands and the USA have studied whether psychotic experiences are associated with childhood functional impairments, particularly regarding school performance. To do so, they assessed psychotic experiences in a cohort of >2,600 children (enrolled in the population-based Generation R Study) using self-reports on hallucinations at age 10 years. Then, they assessed school performance based on standardized national school test results at age 12 years.

After adjusting for sociodemographic characteristics, maternal and childhood intelligence (at age 6 years), and co-occurring psychopathology at age 10 years, they found that indeed, psychotic experiences were prospectively associated with poorer school performance scores. They also found an association specifically with poorer language and mathematics subscale scores. However, the effect sizes were relatively small, and the associations did not remain after adjusting for attention problems.

These findings suggest that psychotic experiences might be associated with childhood functional impairments. Steenkamp et al. thus propose that longitudinal studies further explore the relevance and nature of the relationship between psychotic experiences and school performance. The role of attention problems in this relationship also warrants further analysis.

Referring to

Steenkamp, L.R., Bolhuis, K., Blanken, L.M.E., Luijk, M.P.C.M., Hillegers, M.H.J., Kushner, S.A. & Tiemeier, H. (2020), Psychotic experiences and future school performance in childhood: a population‐based cohort study. J. Child Psychol. Psychiatr. doi: 10.1111/jcpp.13281.

Dr Jessica Edwards
Jessica received her MA in Biological Sciences and her DPhil in Neurobehavioural Genetics from the University of Oxford (Magdalen College). After completing her post-doctoral research, she moved into scientific editing and publishing, first working for Spandidos Publications (London, UK) and then moving to Nature Publishing Group. Jessica is now a freelance editor and science writer, and started writing for “The Bridge” in December 2017.

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