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Childhood adversity and conduct disorder: A developmental pathway to violence in schizophrenia

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Original languageEnglish
JournalSchizophrenia Research
Early online date12 Feb 2016
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 12 Feb 2016

King's Authors



Both childhood adversity and conduct disorder are over-represented among adult patients with schizophrenia and have been proposed as significant factors that may increase the risk of violence. It is not known how childhood adversity and conduct disorder might interact to contribute towards an increased risk of violence in schizophrenia. This study aimed to explore the relationships between childhood adversity, conduct disorder and violence among men with schizophrenia.

54 male patients with schizophrenia from a range of inpatient and outpatient mental health services were assessed for exposure to a variety of childhood adversities, conduct disorder before the age of 15 and later violent behaviour in adulthood.

Exposure to domestic violence during childhood was associated with an increased propensity to violence in adulthood. Symptoms of conduct disorder were associated both with cumulative exposure to childhood adversities and with later propensity to violence. The cumulative number of childhood adversities was associated with adult propensity to violence. This association was significantly attenuated by inclusion of conduct disorder in the model.

This is the first study to demonstrate an association between childhood exposure to domestic violence and later violent behaviour in schizophrenia. Conduct disorder may mediate the association between cumulative childhood adversities and adult propensity to violence, indicating an indirect pathway. These results indicate a complex interplay between childhood adversity, conduct disorder and later violent behaviour in schizophrenia, and suggest that there may be shared aetiological risk factors on a common developmental pathway to violence.

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