Traumatic Life Event Exposure and Psychotic-Like Experiences: A Multiple Mediation Model of Cognitive-Based Mechanisms

Schizophr Res. 2019 Mar;205:15-22. doi: 10.1016/j.schres.2018.02.005. Epub 2018 Feb 18.


Several cognitive mechanisms have been proposed to account for the relationship between exposure to traumatic life events (TLEs) and the entire psychosis spectrum. However, only few of these mechanisms have been empirically tested and those that have been tested have not considered multiple mechanisms simultaneously. The purpose of this study was to examine whether perceived stress, dissociation, negative self-schemas, negative other-schemas, and/or external locus of control mediated the association between TLEs and psychotic-like experiences (PLEs). An undergraduate sample of 945 individuals completed a battery of self-report questionnaires. We found significant indirect effects from TLE exposure to PLEs through perceived stress, dissociation, external locus of control, negative self-schemas, and negative other-schemas. When controlling for comorbid psychological symptoms, only the indirect effect from TLE exposure to PLEs through dissociation continued to be significant. Targeting stress sensitivity, maladaptive schemas, dissociative tendencies, and externalizing attributional styles may prove useful in the amelioration of risk for various psychopathologies (e.g., mood, psychosis) in the aftermath of TLE exposure. Findings underscore the importance of targeting trauma-related cognitions in the prevention or reduction of psychotic-like experiences or disorders.

Keywords: Dissociation; Locus of control; Negative schemas; Psychotic-like experiences; Stress sensitivity; Trauma exposure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological / physiology*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Comorbidity
  • Dissociative Disorders / epidemiology
  • Dissociative Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internal-External Control*
  • Life Change Events
  • Male
  • Psychological Trauma / epidemiology
  • Psychological Trauma / physiopathology*
  • Psychotic Disorders / epidemiology
  • Psychotic Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology*
  • Thinking / physiology*
  • Young Adult