Background There is increasing interest in elucidating the association of different childhood adversities with psychosis-spectrum symptoms as well as the mechanistic processes involved. This study used experience sampling methodology to examine (i) associations of a range of childhood adversities with psychosis symptom domains in daily life; (ii) whether associations of abuse and neglect with symptoms are consistent across self-report and interview methods of trauma assessment; and (iii) the role of different adversities in moderating affective, psychotic-like, and paranoid reactivity to situational and social stressors. Method A total of 206 nonclinical young adults were administered self-report and interview measures to assess childhood abuse, neglect, bullying, losses, and general traumatic events. Participants received personal digital assistants that signaled them randomly eight times daily for one week to complete questionnaires about current experiences, including symptoms, affect, and stress. Results Self-reported and interview-based abuse and neglect were associated with psychotic-like and paranoid symptoms, whereas only self-reported neglect was associated with negative-like symptoms. Bullying was associated with psychotic-like symptoms. Losses and general traumatic events were not directly associated with any of the symptom domains. All the childhood adversities were associated with stress reactivity in daily life. Interpersonal adversities (abuse, neglect, bullying, and losses) moderated psychotic-like and/or paranoid reactivity to situational and social stressors, whereas general traumatic events moderated psychotic-like reactivity to situational stress. Also, different interpersonal adversities exacerbated psychotic-like and/or paranoid symptoms in response to distinct social stressors. Discussion The present study provides a unique examination of how childhood adversities impact the expression of spectrum symptoms in the real world and lends support to the notion that stress reactivity is a mechanism implicated in the experience of reality distortion in individuals exposed to childhood trauma. Investigating the interplay between childhood experience and current context is relevant for uncovering potential pathways to the extended psychosis phenotype.
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