Child loss and psychosis onset: Evidence for traumatic experience as an etiological factor in psychosis

Jordan E. DeVylder, Julia S.H. Wang, Hans Y. Oh, Ellen P. Lukens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Previous research suggests that trauma may contribute to psychosis onset. In this study, we examine the effect of parental loss of a child on the onset of psychotic experience using data from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication, hypothesizing that child loss will precede the onset of psychosis and will be associated with a later age of onset. We likewise tested this association for six other psychiatric conditions to demonstrate specificity for psychosis. Individuals with a psychotic disorder who had lost a child had a significantly later age of onset, particularly in males, even when controlling for demographic variables and co-occurring substance abuse and psychiatric disorders. Psychosis onset frequently occurred within a year of child loss. No associations were found between child loss and onset of other psychiatric conditions, supporting specificity of the effect on psychosis. The presented findings implicate child loss as an etiological factor in the onset of psychosis, providing converging evidence with previous studies demonstrating associations between more widely studied trauma exposures (abuse, neglect, and assault) and psychosis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)90-94
Number of pages5
JournalPsychiatry Research
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jan 30 2013


  • Bereavement
  • Child loss
  • Etiology
  • Life events
  • Psychosis
  • Schizophrenia
  • Trauma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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