Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology

, Volume 50, Issue 7, pp 1017–1027 | Cite as

The Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) birth cohort as a resource for studying psychopathology in childhood and adolescence: a summary of findings for depression and psychosis

Invited Reviews

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this study is to highlight the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) as a resource to study psychopathology. To demonstrate this, we review the studies related to depression and psychosis in childhood and adolescence and discuss the results in relation to the aetiology of depression and psychotic experiences (PEs) and possible underlying mechanisms.

Methods

We examined the list of publications from ALSPAC and then classified them as examining (a) the course and risk factors of maternal and paternal depression, (b) the effects of maternal and paternal depression on child development, (c) risk factors for depression in childhood and adolescence, (d) the frequency, clinical relevance and risk factors of PEs, and (e) shared risk factors for depression and PEs.

Results

There was evidence that environmental stressors and the way these are interpreted contribute to risk of depression and evidence that biological factors related to puberty are also likely to play a role. With regards to PEs, the findings further support the existence of ‘a continuum of psychosis’ while they also suggest that PEs might be of limited clinical utility in predicting psychotic disorder during adolescence and early adulthood. Finally, most risk factors examined were found to be shared between depression and PEs.

Conclusions

The ALSPAC birth cohort has provided important insights for our understanding of the aetiological mechanisms underlying depression and PEs. Future research could aim to incorporate measures of automatic psychological mechanisms to provide insights into the brain mechanisms that underlie these clinical phenomena.

Keywords

Depression Psychotic experiences ALSPAC Birth cohort 

Notes

Acknowledgments

We are extremely grateful to all the families who took part in this study, the midwives for their help in recruiting them, and the whole ALSPAC team, which includes interviewers, computer and laboratory technicians, clerical workers, research scientists, volunteers, managers, receptionists and nurses. The UK Medical Research Council and the Wellcome Trust (Grant ref: 102215/2/13/2) and the University of Bristol provide core support for ALSPAC. We would also like to thank Dr John Heron and Dr Carol Joinson for providing us with the timeline and SMFQ figures. This publication is the work of the authors and they serve as guarantors for the contents of this paper. Research mentioned here was funded by a number of additional grants but we wish to specifically mention Wellcome Trust 084268/Z/07/Z, GR072043MA and MRC G0701503.

Conflict of interest

None.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.MRC Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics, Institute of Psychological Medicine and Clinical NeurosciencesCardiff UniversityCardiffUK
  2. 2.Centre for Academic Mental Health, School of Social and Community MedicineUniversity of BristolBristolUK
  3. 3.Division of Psychiatry, Faculty of Brain SciencesUniversity College LondonLondonUK

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