Pathways from developmental vulnerabilities in early childhood to schizotypy in middle childhood

Kirstie O'Hare, Oliver Watkeys, Johanna C. Badcock, Kristin R. Laurens, Stacy Tzoumakis, Kimberlie Dean, Felicity Harris, Vaughan J. Carr, Melissa J. Green*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Childhood disturbances in social, emotional, language, motor and cognitive functioning, and schizotypy have each been implicated as precursors of schizophrenia-spectrum disorders. We investigated whether relationships between early childhood developmental vulnerabilities and childhood schizotypy are mediated by educational underachievement in middle childhood.

Participants were members of a large Australian (n = 19,216) population cohort followed longitudinally. Path analyses were used to model relationships between developmental vulnerabilities at age ~5 years, educational underachievement from ages ~8 to 10 years and three distinct profiles of schizotypy at age ~11 years (true, introverted and affective schizotypy).

Early childhood developmental vulnerabilities on five broad domains (related to physical, emotional, social, cognitive and communication development) were associated with schizotypy profiles in middle childhood. Educational underachievement in middle childhood was associated with all schizotypy profiles, but most strongly with the true schizotypy profile (OR = 3.92, 95% CI = 3.12, 4.91). The relationships between schizotypy profiles and early childhood developmental vulnerabilities in ‘language and cognitive skills (school-based)’ and ‘communication skills and general knowledge’ domains were fully mediated by educational underachievement in middle childhood, and the relationships with early childhood ‘physical health and well-being’ and ‘emotional maturity’ domains were partially mediated.

Developmental continuity from early childhood developmental vulnerabilities to schizotypy in middle childhood is mediated by educational underachievement in middle childhood. While some domains of early developmental functioning showed differential relationships with distinct schizotypy profiles, these findings support a developmental pathway to schizotypy in which cognitive vulnerability operates from early childhood through to middle childhood.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)228-242
JournalBritish Journal of Clinical Psychology
Issue number1
Early online date2 Dec 2022
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2023


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