The British Journal of Psychiatry
Daily stressors and negative life events in children at elevated risk of developing schizophrenia
Alexis E. Cullen, Helen L. Fisher, Ruth E. Roberts, Carmine M. Pariante, Kristin R. Laurens
  • Declaration of interest




Psychological stress is implicated in the development of schizophrenia, but little is known about experiences of stress among children at elevated risk for the disorder.


To examine stressor exposure and reactivity in children with different vulnerability profiles for schizophrenia: (a) children presenting multiple antecedents of schizophrenia (ASz group), (b) children with a family history of schizophrenia (FHx group) and (c) typically developing low-risk (TD) children.


Ninety-five children (ASz = 29; FHx = 19; ASz+FHx = 5; TD = 42), identified aged 9-12 years using a community-based screening procedure or as relatives of individuals with schizophrenia, completed questionnaires assessing environmental stressors and psychopathology at age 11-14 years.


Relative to their typically developing peers, children in the FHx and ASz groups were exposed to a greater number of negative life events and a higher frequency of daily stressors, respectively; and were more distressed by these experiences.


Stress exposure and reactivity may constitute useful targets of early intervention for psychosis.


  • Funding

    This work was supported by funding to K.R.L. from a National Institute for Health Research (NIHR)Career Development Fellowship (CDF/08/01/015); a Bial Foundation Research Grant (35/06); a NARSAD Young Investigator Award (2005); and the British Medical Association Margaret Temple Award for schizophrenia research (2006). H.L.F. was supported by a Medical Research Council (MRC) Population Health Scientist award (G1002366).

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