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Dev Psychopathol. 2017 Dec;29(5):1823-1837. doi: 10.1017/S0954579417001420.

In the eye of the beholder: Perceptions of neighborhood adversity and psychotic experiences in adolescence.

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King's College London.
Duke University.


Adolescent psychotic experiences increase risk for schizophrenia and other severe psychopathology in adulthood. Converging evidence implicates urban and adverse neighborhood conditions in the etiology of adolescent psychotic experiences, but the role of young people's personal perceptions of disorder (i.e., physical and social signs of threat) in their neighborhood is unknown. This was examined using data from the Environmental Risk Longitudinal Twin Study, a nationally representative birth cohort of 2,232 British twins. Participants were interviewed at age 18 about psychotic phenomena and perceptions of disorder in the neighborhood. Multilevel, longitudinal, and genetically sensitive analyses investigated the association between perceptions of neighborhood disorder and adolescent psychotic experiences. Adolescents who perceived higher levels of neighborhood disorder were significantly more likely to have psychotic experiences, even after accounting for objectively/independently measured levels of crime and disorder, neighborhood- and family-level socioeconomic status, family psychiatric history, adolescent substance and mood problems, and childhood psychotic symptoms: odds ratio = 1.62, 95% confidence interval [1.27, 2.05], p < .001. The phenotypic overlap between adolescent psychotic experiences and perceptions of neighborhood disorder was explained by overlapping common environmental influences, rC = .88, 95% confidence interval [0.26, 1.00]. Findings suggest that early psychological interventions to prevent adolescent psychotic experiences should explore the role of young people's (potentially modifiable) perceptions of threatening neighborhood conditions.

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