Context matters: The impact of neighborhood crime and paranoid symptoms on psychosis risk assessment

Camille Wilson, Melissa Edmondson Smith, Elizabeth Thompson, Caroline Demro, Emily Kline, Kristin Bussell, Steven C. Pitts, Jordan DeVylder, Gloria Reeves, Jason Schiffman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Psychosis risk assessment measures probe for paranoid thinking, persecutory ideas of reference, and suspiciousness as part of a psychosis risk construct. However, in some cases, these symptoms may reflect a normative, realistic, and even adaptive response to environmental stressors rather than psychopathology. Neighborhood characteristics, dangerousness for instance, are linked to levels of fear and suspiciousness that can be theoretically unrelated to psychosis. Despite this potential confound, psychosis-risk assessments do not explicitly evaluate neighborhood factors that might (adaptively) increase suspiciousness. In such cases, interviewers run the risk of misinterpreting adaptive suspiciousness as a psychosis-risk symptom. Ultimately, the degree to which neighborhood factors contribute to psychosis-risk assessment remains unclear. The current study examined the relation between neighborhood crime and suspiciousness as measured by the SIPS among predominantly African American help-seeking adolescents (= 57) living in various neighborhoods in Baltimore City. Uniform Crime Reports, including violent and property crime for Baltimore City, were used to calculate a proxy of neighborhood crime. This crime index correlated with SIPS suspiciousness (r(55) =.32, p =.02). Multiple regression analyses demonstrated that increased neighborhood crime significantly predicted suspiciousness over and above the influence of the other SIPS positive symptoms in predicting suspiciousness. Findings suggest that neighborhood crime may in some cases account for suspiciousness ascertained as part of a psychosis risk assessment, and therefore sensitivity to contextual factors is important when evaluating risk for psychosis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)56-61
Number of pages6
JournalSchizophrenia Research
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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