Psychological Medicine

Original Articles

Adolescent bullying, cannabis use and emerging psychotic experiences: a longitudinal general population study

C. J. Mackiea1 c1, M. O'Leary-Barretta2, N. Al-Khudhairya1, N. Castellanos-Ryana3, M. Struvea1, L. Toppera1 and P. Conroda1a3 c2

a1 Addictions Department, Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, UK

a2 Psychology Department, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada

a3 Department of Psychiatry, Université de Montréal, CHU Hôpital Ste Justine, Montreal, QC, Canada

Background Using longitudinal and prospective measures of psychotic experiences during adolescence, we assessed the risk of developing psychosis in three groups showing low, increasing and elevated psychotic experiences associated with bullying by peers and cannabis use in a UK sample of adolescents.

Method Data were collected by self-report from 1098 adolescents (mean age 13.6 years; 60.9% boys) at five separate time points, equally separated by 6 months, across a 24-month period. General growth mixture modelling identified three distinct trajectories of adolescents reporting psychotic experiences: elevated, increasing and low.

Results Controlling for cannabis use, bullying by peers significantly predicted change in psychotic experiences between Time 2 and Time 5 in adolescents belonging to the increasing group. No effect was found for the elevated or low groups. Controlling for bullying, an earlier age of cannabis use and cannabis use more than twice significantly predicted change in psychotic experiences in adolescents belonging to the increasing group. Cannabis use at any age was significantly associated with subsequent change in psychotic experiences in the low group. Reverse causal associations were examined and there was no evidence for psychotic experiences at Time 1 predicting a subsequent change in cannabis use between Times 2 and 5 in any trajectory group.

Conclusions Bullying by peers and cannabis use are associated with adolescents' reports of increasing psychotic experiences over time. Further research into the longitudinal development of psychosis in adolescence and the associated risk factors would allow for early intervention programmes to be targeted more precisely.

(Received October 11 2011)

(Revised July 21 2012)

(Accepted August 07 2012)

(Online publication September 07 2012)

Key words

  • Adolescence;
  • bullying;
  • cannabis use;
  • psychotic experiences

Correspondence

c1 Address for correspondence: Dr C. J. Mackie, Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, 4 Windsor Walk, London SE5 8AF, UK. (Email: clare.mackie@kcl.ac.uk) [C. J. Mackie]

c2 (Email: patricia.conrod@kcl.ac.uk) [P. Conrod]

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