The role of childhood trauma in cognitive performance in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder – a systematic review

Maria R. Dauvermann*, Gary Donohoe

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)
78 Downloads (Pure)


Childhood trauma (CT) has repeatedly been associated with cognitive deficits in patients with psychosis but many inconsistencies have been reported so that the nature of the relationship remains unclear. The purpose of this review was to better characterize the contribution of CT to cognitive deficits by considering the type, severity and frequency of childhood traumatic events and their relationships with psychosis at all stages. 

Relevant studies were identified via electronic and manual literature searches and included original studies that investigated the relationship between CT and higher cognitive performance or social cognitive performance in patients with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and psychosis at all stages of the illness stages (i.e. ultra-high risk, first episode or chronic phase). 

Overall, a majority of studies reported that patients who experienced CT displayed deficits in general cognitive ability compared to patients with psychosis without such a history. Associations between CT and other cognitive function were more mixed. When comparing patient groups, the association between CT and cognitive function was more inconsistent in patients with chronic schizophrenia than in healthy participants, ultra-high risk individuals, first-episode patients and patients with chronic bipolar disorder. 

In understanding the variability in the reported relationships between CT and cognition across study populations, we highlight the variety of questionnaires used and discuss the likelihood of there being differences in cognitive function based on specific stressors, severity and frequency. Finally, we consider future research steps that may shed light on psychobiological mechanisms underlying CT and cognitive performance in patients with psychosis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalSchizophrenia Research: Cognition
Early online date11 Dec 2018
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the European Research Council (ERC- 2015-STG-677467 ) and Science Foundation Ireland (SFI- 16/ERCS/3787 ) awarded to GD.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 The Authors


  • Childhood trauma
  • Cognitive function
  • Psychosis
  • Schizophrenia
  • Social cognitive function

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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