Frequently changing schools during childhood may increase the risk of psychotic symptoms in teen and later years.
Suffering from psychotic-like symptoms at young age is strongly associated with mental health problems in adulthood, including psychotic disorders and suicide. A new study, published in American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, found that school mobility during childhood heightens the risk of developing psychotic-like symptoms in early adolescence by up to 60 percent.
“Changing schools can be very stressful for students. Our study found that the process of moving schools may itself increase the risk of psychotic symptoms—independent of other factors. But additionally, being involved in bullying, sometimes as a consequence of repeated school moves, may exacerbate risk for the individual,” says Swaran Singh, a professor at the University of Warwick, who led the study.
At the age of 12, participants in the study were interviewed to assess for the presence of psychotic-like symptoms including hallucinations, delusions, and thought interference in the previous six months. Those that had moved school three or more times were found to be 60 percent more likely to display at least one definite psychotic symptom.
The authors suggest that moving schools often may lead to feelings of low self-esteem and a sense of social defeat. This feeling of being excluded from the majority could also render physiological consequences leading to sensitization of the mesolimbic dopamine system, heightening the risk of psychotic-like symptoms in vulnerable individuals.
Cath Winsper, senior research fellow at Warwick Medical School and part of the study group says, “It’s clear that we need to keep school mobility in mind when clinically assessing young people with psychotic disorders. It should be explored as a matter of course as the impact can be both serious and potentially long lasting. Schools should develop strategies to help these students to establish themselves in their new environment.”
The cohort used by the researchers was the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, popularly known as Children of the 90s, a birth cohort study based in South West England.
Source: University of Warwick