School success in childhood and subsequent prodromal symptoms and psychoses in the Northern Finland Birth Cohort 1986

Psychol Med. 2020 Apr;50(6):948-955. doi: 10.1017/S0033291719000825. Epub 2019 Apr 23.


Background: Low IQ is a risk factor for psychosis, but the effect of high IQ is more controversial. The aim was to explore the association of childhood school success with prodromal symptoms in adolescence and psychoses in adulthood.

Methods: In the general population-based Northern Finland Birth Cohort 1986 (n = 8 229), we studied the relationship between teacher-assessed learning deficits, special talents and general school success at age 8 years and both prodromal symptoms (PROD-screen) at age 15-16 years and the occurrence of psychoses by age 30 years.

Results: More prodromal symptoms were experienced by those talented in oral presentation [boys: adjusted odds ratio (OR) 1.49; 95% confidence interval 1.14-1.96; girls: 1.23; 1.00-1.52] or drawing (boys: 1.44; 1.10-1.87). Conversely, being talented in athletics decreased the probability of psychotic-like symptoms (boys: OR 0.72; 0.58-0.90). School success below average predicted less prodromal symptoms with boys (OR 0.68; 0.48-0.97), whereas above-average success predicted more prodromal symptoms with girls (OR 1.22; 1.03-1.44). The occurrence of psychoses was not affected. Learning deficits did not associate with prodromal symptoms or psychoses.

Conclusions: Learning deficits in childhood did not increase the risk of prodromal symptoms in adolescence or later psychosis in this large birth cohort. Learning deficits are not always associated with increased risk of psychosis, which might be due to, e.g. special support given in schools. The higher prevalence of prodromal symptoms in talented children may reflect a different kind of relationship of school success with prodromal symptoms compared to full psychoses.

Keywords: Adolescents; children; creativity; learning deficits; psychosis; school.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Academic Success*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Finland / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Learning Disabilities / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Prodromal Symptoms*
  • Psychotic Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Schools
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult