Associations between stereotype awareness, childhood trauma and psychopathology: a study in people with psychosis, their siblings and controls

PLoS One. 2015 Feb 23;10(2):e0117386. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0117386. eCollection 2015.


Introduction: Stereotype awareness--or an individual's perception of the degree to which negative beliefs or stereotypes are held by the public--is an important factor mediating public stigma, self-stigma and their negative consequences. Research is required to assess how individuals become more sensitive to perceive stereotypes, pointing the way to therapeutic options to reduce its negative effects and increase stigma resilience. Because perception and interpretation can be guided by belief systems, and childhood trauma (CT) is reported to impact such beliefs, CT is explored in relation to stereotype awareness (SA) in persons with psychosis, their siblings and controls.

Method: Data from the GROUP project (Genetic Risk and Outcome of Psychosis) were analyzed. SA was measured by devaluation scales which assess a respondent's perception of the degree to which stereotypes about people with mental illness and about their families are held by the public. CT was measured using the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (short form).

Results: In patients, symptoms of disorganization and emotional distress were associated with SA about people with mental illness. In siblings, schizotypal features were associated with both types of SA (more schizotypy = more SA). In both patients and siblings, CT was associated with both types of SA (more CT = more SA), independent of symptoms (patients) or schizotypy (siblings).

Conclusion: CT in people with psychosis and their siblings may sensitize to SA. Thus, CT may not only impact on risk for illness onset, it may also increase SA associated with mental illness, potentially interfering with the recovery process. CT-induced SA may indicate a heightened sensitivity to threat, which may also impact psychopathology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Adult Survivors of Child Adverse Events / psychology*
  • Awareness*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychopathology
  • Psychotic Disorders / psychology*
  • Siblings
  • Stereotyping*
  • Young Adult

Grant support

This work was supported by the Geestkracht program of the Dutch Health Research Council (ZON-MW, grant number 10-000-1002) and matching funds from participating universities and mental health care organizations (Site Amsterdam: Academic Psychiatric Centre AMC, Ingeest, Arkin, Dijk en Duin, Rivierduinen, Erasmus MC, GGZ Noord Holland Noord; Site Utrecht: University Medical Centre Utrecht, Altrecht, Symfora, Meerkanten, Riagg Amersfoort, Delta; Site Groningen: University Medical Centre Groningen, Lentis, GGZ Friesland, GGZ Drenthe, Dimence, Mediant, GGZ De Grote Rivieren, and Parnassia psychomedical centre; Site Maastricht: Maastricht University Medical Centre, GGZ Eindhoven, GGZ Midden-Brabant, GGZ Oost-Brabant, GGZ Noord-Midden Limburg, Mondriaan Zorggroep, Prins Clauscentrum Sittard, RIAGG Roermond, Universitair Centrum Sint-Jozef Kortenberg, CAPRI University of Antwerp, PC Ziekeren Sint-Truiden, PZ Sancta Maria Sint-Truiden, GGZ Overpelt, OPZ Rekem). The analyses were supported by unrestricted grants from Jansen-Cilag, Eli Lilly and Company, Astra-Zeneca and Lundbeck. The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Community’s Seventh Framework Program under grant agreement No. HEALTH-F2-2009-241909 (Project EU-GEI). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.