Background

Childhood psychotic symptoms have been associated with various psychiatric disorders in adulthood but their role as early markers of poor outcomes during the crucial transition to adulthood is largely unknown. Therefore, we investigated associations between age-12 psychotic symptoms and a range of mental health problems and functional outcomes at age 18.

Methods

Data were used from the Environmental Risk Longitudinal Twin Study, a nationally representative birth cohort of 2232 twins born in 1994–1995 in England and Wales, followed to age 18 with 93% retention. Childhood psychotic symptoms were assessed in structured interviews at age 12. At age 18, study members’ mental health problems, functional outcomes, risky behaviors, and offending were measured using self-reports and official records.

Results

Children with psychotic symptoms (N = 125, 5.9%) were more likely to experience a range of mental health problems in young adulthood than children without such symptoms. They were also more likely to be obese, smoke cigarettes, be lonely, be parents, and report a lower quality of life, but not more likely to commit crimes. Childhood psychotic symptoms predicted these poor outcomes over and above other emotional and behavioral problems during childhood. Nevertheless, twin analyses indicated that these associations were largely accounted for by shared family factors.

Conclusions

Psychotic symptoms in childhood signal risk for pervasive mental health and functional difficulties in young adulthood and thus may provide a useful screen for an array of later problems. However, early psychotic symptoms and poor outcomes may be manifestations of shared environmental and genetic risks.

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