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Psychol Psychother. 2003 Mar;76(Pt 1):1-22.

Sexual and physical abuse during childhood and adulthood as predictors of hallucinations, delusions and thought disorder.

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Psychology Department, University of Auckland, New Zealand.


In light of recent studies indicating a relationship between child abuse and the positive symptoms of schizophrenia, this study investigated the hypotheses that childhood sexual and physical abuse are related to hallucinations, delusions, and thought disorder in adults, and that those relationships are greater in those who have suffered abuse during adulthood as well as childhood. In 200 community mental-health-centre clients, the clinically evaluated symptomatology of the 92 clients whose files documented sexual or physical abuse at some point in their lives was compared with that of the 108 for whom no abuse was documented. In the 60 patients for whom child abuse was documented, hallucinations (including all six subtypes), but not delusions, thought disorder or negative symptoms, were significantly more common than in the non-abused group. Adult sexual assault was related to hallucinations, delusions, and thought disorder. In linear regression analysis, a combination of child abuse and adult abuse predicted hallucinations, delusions, and thought disorder. However, child abuse was a significant predictor of auditory and tactile hallucinations, even in the absence of adult abuse. Possible psychological and neurobiological pathways from abuse to symptoms are discussed, along with research and clinical implications.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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