Adverse childhood experiences and positive psychotic symptoms: A nationally representative study in Singapore

Child Abuse Negl. 2022 Sep;131:105778. doi: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2022.105778. Epub 2022 Jul 9.


Background: Epidemiological studies show that adverse childhood experiences (ACE) are associated with positive psychotic symptoms in Western populations; however, there is a lack of population-based data in multi-ethnic, Asian societies.

Objective: We investigated the associations between ACE (type and dosage) and positive psychotic symptoms in a nationally representative study in Singapore.

Participants and setting: A total of 4441 adult Singapore residents were recruited via door-to-door surveys; they were assessed for ACE and positive psychotic symptoms (i.e., hallucinations, delusions, thought insertion, thought control, and telepathic powers) on structured interviews.

Methods: Lifetime experiences of positive psychotic symptoms were regressed on (1) the experience of any ACE; (2) cumulative ACE; and (3) the experience of either no ACE, interpersonal victimization only, dysfunctional home environments only, neglect only or multiple exposures to ACE in weighted and adjusted regression models.

Results: 5.2 % of the sample experienced positive psychotic symptoms during their lifetime. Individuals exposed to dysfunctional home environments (OR = 2.84, 95 % CI 1.26 to 6.37) and multiple adverse childhood experiences (OR = 3.31, 95 % CI 2.18 to 5.01) were at an elevated risk of experiencing positive psychotic symptoms. The exposure to three or more ACE was associated with a near five-fold higher risk of experiencing positive psychotic symptoms (OR = 4.51, 95 % CI 2.89 to 7.05).

Conclusions: Individuals exposed to dysfunctional home environments or multiple adverse childhood experiences are at an elevated risk of experiencing positive psychotic symptoms. Given the intrafamilial nature of these childhood adversities, dual-generation approaches and family-centered interventions are key.

Keywords: Adverse childhood experiences; Maltreatment; Psychosis; Schizophrenia; Trauma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Adverse Childhood Experiences*
  • Delusions
  • Hallucinations
  • Humans
  • Psychotic Disorders* / epidemiology
  • Singapore / epidemiology