The Risk of Psychotic-Like Experiences in Young Children
Psychotic-like experiences (such as hearing voices or seeing things that aren't there) are often associated with schizophrenia. While genetics plays a role in the development of schizophrenia, research has shown that environmental and socio-economic factors also contribute significantly to the risk of developing psychotic-like experiences.
Until recently, research in this area has focused mainly on young adults. However, a recent study by researchers at the University of Rochester has shown that these risk factors can also manifest in children before their teenage years.
The researchers also found that the more urban an environment a child lived in, the greater number of psychotic-like experiences they would have during one year.
The study's lead author, David Dodell-Feder, Ph.D., expressed concern about the findings. "It is disconcerting that the association between these exposures and psychotic-like experiences are already present in late childhood," he said. "The fact that the impact of these exposures may occur as early as pre-adolescence highlights the importance of early prevention."
Why the research findings are important
The study's results suggest that environmental and socio-economic factors, such as income disparity, family poverty, air pollution, and lead paint risks, can impact children's risk of developing psychotic-like experiences from a very young age. These findings are significant because they can help inform public health initiatives to reduce the risk of psychotic-like experiences and related disorders later in life.
This study is continuously watching over 11,000 kids until they become adults to see how their bodies grow, their behavior, and life experiences affect their brain development and other parts of their lives. This study will take a long time, but it is very helpful to know how different things can impact mental health and wellness.
Although genes play a significant role in developing schizophrenia and other similar disorders, it is also clear that things like the environment where you live and how much money your family has can make a big difference in the chance of developing psychotic-like experiences. Researchers at the University of
Rochester say that it's imperative to start working on ways to prevent these experiences in kids as soon as possible. By finding and fixing these risk factors, we can help ensure kids and young adults have good mental health and are healthy in other ways, too.
More on the research here.