Although a childhood diagnosis of attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is known to be linked to psychotic experiences and psychotic disorders in later life, the developmental trajectories that could explain this association are unknown. Using a sample from the prospective population-based Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) (N = 8247), we hypothesized that the previously reported association of ADHD combined subtype in childhood and psychotic experiences in early adolescence is mediated by traumatic events and by involvement in bullying. Moreover, we expected this mediation to be specific to ADHD and tested this by comparison with specific phobia. Children with ADHD combined subtype at age 7 were more often involved in bullying at age 10 (OR 3.635, 95% CI 1.973-6.697) and had more psychotic experiences at age 12 (OR 3.362, 95% CI 1.781-6.348). Moreover, children who were involved in bullying had more psychotic experiences (2.005, 95% CI 1.684-2.388). Bullying was a significant mediator between ADHD and psychotic experiences accounting for 41%-50% of the effect. Traumatic events from birth to age 11 were also significantly associated with ADHD combined subtype and psychotic experiences; however, there was no evidence of mediation. Specific phobia was significantly associated with psychotic experiences, but not with bullying. To conclude, bullying is a relevant translating mechanism from ADHD in childhood to psychotic experiences in early adolescence. Interventions that eliminate bullying in children with ADHD could potentially reduce the risk of having psychotic experiences in later life by up to 50%. Clinicians should thus screen for bullying in routine assessments of children with ADHD.
- risk factor
- traumatic experiences