Various psychological and biological pathways have been proposed as mediators between childhood adversity (CA) and psychosis. A systematic review of the evidence in this domain is needed. Our aim is to systematically review the evidence on psychological and biological mediators between CA and psychosis across the psychosis spectrum. This review followed PRISMA guidelines. Articles published between 1979 and July 2019 were identified through a literature search in OVID (PsychINFO, Medline and Embase) and Cochrane Libraries. The evidence by each analysis and each study is presented by group of mediator categories found. The percentage of total effect mediated was calculated. Forty-eight studies were included, 21 in clinical samples and 27 in the general population (GP) with a total of 82 352 subjects from GP and 3189 from clinical studies. The quality of studies was judged as 'fair'. Our results showed (i) solid evidence of mediation between CA and psychosis by negative cognitive schemas about the self, the world and others (NS); by dissociation and other post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms; and through an affective pathway in GP but not in subjects with disorder; (iii) lack of studies exploring biological mediators. We found evidence suggesting that various overlapping and not competing pathways involving post-traumatic and mood symptoms, as well as negative cognitions contribute partially to the link between CA and psychosis. Experiences of CA, along with relevant mediators should be routinely assessed in patients with psychosis. Evidence testing efficacy of interventions targeting such mediators through cognitive behavioural approaches and/or pharmacological means is needed in future.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1966-1976
Number of pages11
JournalPsychological Medicine
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2020


  • Adversity
  • mechanisms
  • mediation
  • psychosis


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