Course of auditory vocal hallucinations in childhood: 11-year follow-up study

Acta Psychiatr Scand. 2016 Jul;134(1):6-15. doi: 10.1111/acps.12571. Epub 2016 Mar 24.


Objective: Childhood auditory vocal hallucinations (AVH) are mostly transient but may predict clinical outcomes. Little is known about their course over time and associations with risk factors, and how this may inform early intervention. Our objective was to assess the 11-year course of AVH, associated psychopathology and risk factors.

Method: A 5-year (T1) and 11-year (T2) follow-up of a baseline case-control sample (n = 694, of whom 347 with AVH). At T2, online assessment of AVH, other psychotic experiences, psychopathology, trauma and cannabis use was completed by 293 adolescents aged 18-19 years.

Results: The AVH 6-year (T1-T2) persistence rate was 18.2%, and the AVH 11-year (T0-T2) persistence rate was 6.2%. AVH at T2 were associated with higher levels of T2 other psychotic experiences, T2 psychopathology and T2 traumatic events, but not with T2 stress or T2 cannabis use. Persistence of AVH (i.e. AVH reported two or three times from T0) was associated with T2 traumatic events and higher risk for post-traumatic stress disorder.

Conclusion: Auditory vocal hallucinations in early childhood are mostly transitory. AVH in adolescence, especially when persistent, are associated with affective symptoms and environmental risk, particularly traumatic events.

Keywords: affective disorders; early intervention; psychoses; trauma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Delusions / psychology
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Hallucinations / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Interview, Psychological
  • Life Change Events
  • Male
  • Marijuana Abuse / psychology
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*
  • Wounds and Injuries / psychology
  • Young Adult