Factor mixture analysis of paranoia in young people

  • Antonio PretiEmail author
  • Davide Massidda
  • Matteo Cella
  • Andrea Raballo
  • Rosanna Scanu
  • Debora Tronci
  • Mersia Gabbrielli
  • Tamara Muratore
  • Mauro Giovanni Carta
  • Donatella Rita Petretto
Original Paper



Paranoid thoughts are relatively common in the general population and can increase the risk of developing mental health conditions. In this study, we investigate the latent structure of paranoia in a sample of young people.


Cross-sectional survey; 243 undergraduate students (males: 44.9%) aged 24.3 years (SD 3.5). The participants completed the Green et al. Paranoid Thought Scales GPTS, a 32-item scale assessing ideas of social reference and persecution; the 12-item General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12), and the 74-item Schizotypal Personality Questionnaire (SPQ). Confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) was used to confirm the two-factor structure of the GPTS. Factor mixture modeling analysis (FMMA) was applied to map the best combination of factors and latent classes of paranoia.


The GPTS showed excellent internal reliability and test–retest stability. Convergent validity was good, with stronger links with measures of ideas of reference and of suspiciousness than with other measures of psychosis–proneness. CFA showed excellent fit for the two-factor solution. FMMA retrieved a three-class solution with 176 subjects (72.5%) assigned to a baseline class, 54 (22.2%) to a “suspicious and mistrustful” class, and 13 (5.3%) to a “paranoid thinking” class. Compared to the baseline class, the other two classes had a higher risk of psychological distress and psychosis–proneness.


The latent structure of paranoid thinking in young people appears dimensional. Although caution is advised when generalizing from studies on college students, screening for paranoid ideation in young people who complain about psychological distress might prove useful to prevent the development of severe and potentially debilitating conditions.


Paranoid thinking Paranoia Psychosis Screening Schizotypy Youth 



Research funded by Università di Cagliari (2012 CAR—Contributo d’ateneo per la ricerca, on the share attributed to Dr. Petretto). The funding body had no involvement in the design of the study, the collection, analysis and interpretation of data, the writing of the report, and the decision to submit the article for publication.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

Authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

The institutional review board approved the study protocol in accordance with the guidelines of the 1995 Declaration of Helsinki and their revisions.

Informed consent

All participants provided informed consent. Participation was voluntary and with no compensation.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Antonio Preti
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Davide Massidda
    • 4
  • Matteo Cella
    • 5
  • Andrea Raballo
    • 6
    • 7
  • Rosanna Scanu
    • 2
  • Debora Tronci
    • 2
  • Mersia Gabbrielli
    • 2
  • Tamara Muratore
    • 2
  • Mauro Giovanni Carta
    • 1
  • Donatella Rita Petretto
    • 2
  1. 1.Center of Liaison Psychiatry and Psychosomatics, University HospitalUniversity of CagliariCagliariItaly
  2. 2.Section on Clinical Psychology, Department of Education, Psychology, PhilosophyUniversity of CagliariCagliariItaly
  3. 3.Genneruxi Medical CenterCagliariItaly
  4. 4.Kode SrlPisaItaly
  5. 5.Department of Psychology, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and NeuroscienceKing’s College LondonLondonUK
  6. 6.Department of Psychology, Psychopathology and Development ResearchNorwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)TrondheimNorway
  7. 7.Department of Medicine, Division of Psychiatry, Clinical Psychology and RehabilitationUniversity of PerugiaPerugiaItaly

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