Childhood trauma increases social functioning deficits in first-episode psychosis (FEP) and is negatively associated with higher-order social cognitive processes such as emotion recognition (ER). We investigated the relationship between childhood trauma severity and ER capacity, and explored sex as a potential factor given sex differences in childhood trauma exposure.
Eighty-three FEP participants (52 males, 31 females) and 69 nonclinical controls (49 males, 20 females) completed the CogState Research Battery. FEP participants completed the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire. A sex × group (FEP, controls) ANOVA examined ER differences and was followed by two-way ANCOVAs investigating sex and childhood trauma severity (none, low, moderate, and severe) on ER and global cognition in FEP.
FEP participants had significantly lower ER scores than controls (p = .035). No significant sex × group interaction emerged for ER F(3, 147) = .496, p = .438 [95% CI = -1.20-0.57], partial η2 = .003. When controlling for age at psychosis onset, a significant interaction emerged in FEP between sex and childhood trauma severity F(3, 71) = 3.173, p = .029, partial η2 = .118. Males (n = 9) with severe trauma showed ER deficits compared to females (n = 8) (p = .011 [95% CI = -2.90 to -0.39]). No significant interaction was observed for global cognition F(3, 69) = 2.410, p = .074, partial η2 = .095.
These preliminary findings provide support for longitudinal investigations examining whether trauma severity differentially impacts ER in males and females with FEP.