Psychotic disorders in children are more heterogeneous than is captured by categorical diagnoses. In a new cohort of children and adolescents, we evaluated the relationships among age at onset (AAO), clinical symptoms and developmental impairments. Patients with schizophrenia and other “spectrum” psychotic diagnoses (N = 88; AAO 6–17, mean 12.6) were evaluated with diagnostic interviews, a new clinical scale (Lifetime Dimensions of Psychosis Scale-Child and Adolescent), and neuropsychological and medical evaluations. Key findings were replicated in an adult cohort of 2420 cases, including 127 with retrospective AAO<13. Factor and cluster analyses were carried out to identify clinical profiles. Five clinical factors were identified in each cohort: Positive, Bizarre Positive, Negative/Formal Thought Disorder, Depression and Mania. Earlier AAO predicted severity of bizarre positive symptoms in children and of bizarre and other symptoms in adults. Four clinical clusters in the child cohort were characterized by: more severe bizarre positive symptoms (N = 31); negative symptoms (N = 15); premorbid autism spectrum features and developmental delay (N = 12); and depressive symptoms with heterogeneous diagnoses and mild positive/negative symptoms (N = 25). Previous factor-analytic studies of childhood psychosis did not specifically consider bizarre positive symptoms. Here, bizarre positive symptoms emerged as clinical markers of severe, childhood-onset psychosis similar to adult schizophrenia. The four clusters are clinically meaningful and useful for treatment planning and potentially for biological research. Childhood-onset cases are rare and thus difficult to study, but additional, larger cohorts may be useful in dissecting the biological and developmental heterogeneity of psychotic disorders.
- Cluster analysis
- Factor analysis