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Using discordant twin methods to investigate an environmentally mediated pathway between social support and the reduced likelihood of adolescent psychotic experiences.

Authors
  • Crush, Eloise1
  • Arseneault, Louise1
  • Danese, Andrea1, 2, 3
  • Jaffee, Sara R4
  • Fisher, Helen L1
  • 1 King's College London, Social, Genetic & Developmental Psychiatry Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, London, UK.
  • 2 Department of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, King's College London, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, London, UK.
  • 3 National & Specialist CAMHS Clinic for Trauma, Anxiety, and Depression, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK.
  • 4 Department of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA.
Type
Published Article
Journal
Psychological Medicine
Publisher
Cambridge University Press
Publication Date
Aug 01, 2020
Volume
50
Issue
11
Pages
1898–1905
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1017/S0033291719001983
PMID: 31414649
Source
Medline
Keywords
Language
English
License
Unknown

Abstract

Social support has been shown to be associated with a reduced likelihood of developing psychotic experiences in the general population and even amongst those at high risk due to exposure to multiple forms of victimisation (poly-victimised). However, it is unclear whether this association is merely due to the confounding effects of shared environmental and genetic influences, or reverse causality. Therefore, we investigated whether social support has a unique environmentally mediated effect on adolescent psychotic experiences after accounting for familial factors, including genetic factors, and also prior psychopathology. Participants were from the Environmental Risk (E-Risk) Longitudinal Twin Study, a nationally-representative cohort of 2232 UK-born twins. Adolescents were interviewed at age 18 about psychotic experiences and victimisation exposure since age 12, and their perceptions of social support. Prior childhood mental health problems and psychotic symptoms were assessed at age 12. The discordant twin method was used to disentangle the relative family-wide and unique-environmental effects of social support on psychotic experiences in the general population and among poly-victimised adolescents. Perceived social support, particularly from friends, was found to have a unique environmentally mediated buffering effect on adolescent psychotic experiences in the whole sample and in the high-risk poly-victimised group. The protective effects of social support on adolescent psychotic experiences cannot be accounted for by shared environmental or genetic factors, nor by earlier psychopathology. Our findings suggest that early intervention programmes focused on increasing perceptions of social support have the potential to prevent the emergence of psychotic experiences amongst adolescents.

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