Distressing psychotic-like experiences, cognitive functioning and early developmental markers in clinically referred young people aged 8–18 years

G L Barnes, C Stewart, S Browning, K Bracegirdle, K R Laurens, K Gin, C Hirsch, C Abbott, J Onwumere, P Banerjea, E Kuipers, S Jolley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: Neurocognitive difficulties and early childhood speech/motor delays are well documented amongst older adolescents and young adults considered at risk for psychosis-spectrum diagnoses. We aimed to test associations between unusual or psychotic-like experiences (PLEs), co-occurring distress/emotional symptoms, current cognitive functioning and developmental delays/difficulties in young people (aged 8–18 years) referred to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services in South London, UK. Methods: Study 1 examined receptive language, verbal learning and caregiver-reported speech and motor delays/difficulties in a sample of 101 clinically-referred children aged 8–14 years, comparing those reporting no PLEs (n = 19), PLEs without distress (n = 16), and PLEs with distress (n = 66). Study 2 tested associations of severity of distressing PLEs with vocabulary, perceptual reasoning, word reading and developmental delays/difficulties in a second sample of 122 adolescents aged 12–18 years with distressing PLEs. Results: In Study 1, children with distressing PLEs had lower receptive language and delayed recall and higher rates of developmental delays/difficulties than the no-PLE and non-distressing PLE groups (F values: 2.3–2.8; p values: < 0.005). Receptive language (β = 0.24, p = 0.03) and delayed recall (β = − 0.17, p = 0.02) predicted PLE distress severity. In Study 2, the cognitive-developmental variables did not significantly predict PLE distress severity (β values = 0.01–0.22, p values: > 0.05). Conclusion: Findings may be consistent with a cognitive-developmental model relating distressing PLEs in youth with difficulties in cognitive functioning. This highlights the potential utility of adjunctive cognitive strategies which target mechanisms associated with PLE distress. These could be included in cognitive-behavioural interventions offered prior to the development of an at-risk mental state in mental health, educational or public health settings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)461-472
Number of pages12
JournalSocial Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology
Issue number3
Early online date3 Sept 2021
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022


  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Health Services
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cognition
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Humans
  • Mental Health Services
  • Psychotic Disorders/diagnosis
  • Young Adult


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