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Aust N Z J Psychiatry. 2013 Aug;47(8):737-45. doi: 10.1177/0004867413484370. Epub 2013 Apr 3.

Theory of mind, insecure attachment and paranoia in adolescents with early psychosis and healthy controls.

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AMC, Academic Psychiatric Centre, Department Early Psychosis, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.



Impaired Theory of Mind (ToM) is found in adults with schizophrenia and is associated with paranoid symptoms. Insecure attachment is proposed to underlie impaired ToM as well as paranoia. Insight into associations between insecure attachment and impaired ToM skills may help clinicians and patients to understand interpersonal difficulties and use this knowledge to improve recovery. This study used a visual perspective-taking task to investigate whether cognitive ToM is already impaired in adolescents with early psychosis as compared to controls. Also investigated was whether perspective-taking and paranoia are associated with insecure (adult) attachment.


Thirty-two adolescent patients with early psychosis and 78 healthy controls participated in this cross-sectional study design and completed the level 1 perspective-taking task, psychopathology assessments (CAPE, PANSS), paranoid thoughts (GPTS), attachment style (PAM) and the WASI vocabulary.


Patients did not significantly differ in level-1 perspective-taking behaviour compared to healthy controls. No significant associations were found between perspective-taking, paranoia and attachment. Insecure attachment was significantly related to paranoid thoughts, after controlling for illness-related symptoms.


No impairment of level-1 perspective-taking was found in adolescent patients with early psychosis compared to healthy controls. Results indicate that level-1 perspective-taking is not impaired during the early stages of psychotic illness. The association between paranoia and attachment support previous findings and provide further insight into the nature of psychotic symptoms. Understanding the role of attachment in paranoia may help patients and their care workers to gain insight into the reasons for the development or persistence of symptoms. Future research should compare early psychosis samples with more chronic samples to explore whether perspective-taking deteriorates during the course of the illness.


Theory of mind; attachment style; paranoia; perspective-taking; schizophrenia; social cognition

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