Evidence for interaction between genetic liability and childhood trauma in the development of psychotic symptoms

Florentina M. E. Pinckaers, Iris L. M. Rotee, C. Vicky Nwosu, Pauline Krolinski, Antonius P. W. Smeets, Sinan Guloksuz, Lea de Jong, Thomas S. J. Vaessen, Thomas Damen, Aniek Uittenboogaard, Annika T. Schafer, Claudia Menne-Lothmann, Jeroen Decoster, Ruud van Winkel, Dina Collip, Philippe Delespaul, Marc De Hert, Catherine Derom, Evert Thiery, Nele JacobsMarieke Wichers, Bart P. F. Rutten, Jim van Os, Marjan Drukker*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Purpose Whilst childhood trauma (CT) is a known risk factor across the spectrum of psychosis expression, little is known about possible interplay with genetic liability. Methods The TwinssCan Study collected data in general population twins, focussing on expression of psychosis at the level of subthreshold psychotic experiences. A multilevel mixed-effects linear regression analysis was performed including 745 subjects to assess the interaction between genetic liability and CT. The Symptom Checklist-90 (SCL-90-R) score of the co-twin was used as an indirect measure of genetic liability to psychopathology, while the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire Short-Form (CTQ-SF) was used to assess CT in the domains of physical, emotional and sexual abuse, as well as physical and emotional neglect. The Community Assessment of Psychic Experience (CAPE) questionnaire was used to phenotypically characterize psychosis expression. Results In the model using the CAPE total score, the interaction between CT and genetic liability was close to statistical significance (chi(2) = 5.6, df = 2, p = 0.06). Analyses of CAPE subscales revealed a significant interaction between CT and genetic liability (chi(2) = 8.8, df = 2, p = 0.012) for the CAPE-negative symptoms subscale, but not for the other two subscales (i.e. positive and depressive). Conclusion The results suggest that the impact of CT on subthreshold expression of psychosis, particularly in the negative subdomain, may be larger in the co-presence of significant genetic liability for psychopathology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1045-1054
Number of pages10
JournalSocial Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2019


  • Psychotic symptoms
  • Gene-environment interaction
  • Childhood trauma
  • General population
  • Genetic liability
  • TWIN

Cite this