Multiple Risk Factors for Schizotypy in a Non-Clinical Population : Exploring the Continuum of Psychosis Two Years Later
Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
College of Humanities and Social Sciences
Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair
Christopher M. King
Daniel V. Simonet
Schizotypy is a multidimensional construct that refers to a collection of cognitive and personality traits, impairments, and experiences thought to lie on a continuum for psychosis, which place an individual at increased risk for developing schizophrenia spectrum disorders. The expression of schizotypy varies along this continuum of psychosis (i.e., from healthy, to subclinical and prodromal symptomatology, to clinical and severe psychosis) and is dependent on several biopsychosocial factors and their interactions. Accordingly, it is important identify factors that correlate with higher levels of schizotypy over time, toward ascertaining knowledge about developmental pathways of risk and resilience for psychotic disorders. To date, a limited number of studies have examined the stability of schizotypy over time, or the prospective predictive validity of a wide range of risk factors concurrently for schizotypy.
Accordingly, the present study consisted of a prospective exploratory investigation of schizotypy and candidate psychosocial predictor variables at two time points—baseline (T1) and two-year follow up (T2) to determine the stability of schizotypy and relevant psychosocial variables between T1 and T2, examine whether cross-sectional predictor variables for schizotypy at T1 continued to be significant predictor variables at T2, and whether T1 schizotypy predicted increased schizotypy at T2. Participants consisted of a non-clinical sample of undergraduate and graduate students, and individuals from the community (NT1 = 660), 406 of whom consented to be recontacted for follow up after completing the baseline assessment between September and December 2018, and who completed the follow up assessment (NT2 = 103). The study utilized an online survey delivered via the Qualtrics platform from October 2020 to December 2020 and was comprised of the same set of self-report questionnaires used at baseline.
As hypothesized, partial support for the stability of overall schizotypy, schizotypy dimensions (positive, negative, and disorganized), and psychosocial risk factors was found over the two-year period for most variables. Several baseline factors were significantly related to and significantly predicted higher levels of overall schizotypy and schizotypy dimensions at follow up, lending partial support to another hypothesis. Depressive symptoms predicted positive schizotypy, anxiety symptoms predicted negative schizotypy, and negative urgency predicted disorganized schizotypy. Moreover, negative urgency, depressive symptoms, a history of one or more head injuries, and experiences of emotional abuse during childhood were significantly correlated with higher levels of overall schizotypal traits. However, there were also numerous baseline predictor variables that did not significantly predict overall schizotypy and schizotypy dimensions at follow up. A third hypothesis was also partially supported, as several baseline variables predicted significantly increased follow up schizotypy scores. However, both dimensional and overall schizotypal traits decreased over a two-year period.
The current study expands understanding of the association between schizotypy and multiple candidate risk factors and suggests that a constellation of several psychosocial factors have utility for predicting schizotypy over time. Early intervention efforts can target these factors, as they may hold particular promise for decreased risk of conversion to psychosis given their consistent association with increased schizotypal traits over time. Future research could address key limitations of this study, including the use of a convenience sample, self-report measures versus diagnostic assessments, and a longer follow up period with additional assessment timepoints. Additional study implications, limitations, and future directions are discussed.
Del Pozzo, Jill, "Multiple Risk Factors for Schizotypy in a Non-Clinical Population : Exploring the Continuum of Psychosis Two Years Later" (2022). Theses, Dissertations and Culminating Projects. 1064.