Schizophrenia has been robustly associated with multiple genetic and environmental risk factors. Childhood adversity is one of the most widely replicated environmental risk factors for schizophrenia, but it is unclear if schizophrenia genetic risk alleles contribute to this association.
In this systematic review and meta-analysis, we assessed the evidence for gene-environment correlation (genes influence likelihood of environmental exposure) between schizophrenia polygenic risk score (PRS) and reported childhood adversity. We also assessed the evidence for a gene-environment interaction (genes influence sensitivity to environmental exposure) in relation to the outcome of schizophrenia and/or psychosis. This study was registered on PROSPERO (CRD42020182812). Following PRISMA guidelines, a search for relevant literature was conducted using Cochrane, MEDLINE, PsycINFO, Web of Science, and Scopus databases until February 2022. All studies that examined the association between schizophrenia PRS and childhood adversity were included.
Seventeen of 650 identified studies met the inclusion criteria and were assessed against the Newcastle-Ottawa Scale for quality. The meta-analysis found evidence for gene-environment correlation between schizophrenia PRS and childhood adversity (r = .02; 95% CI = 0.01, 0.03; P = .001), but the effect was small and therefore likely to explain only a small proportion of the association between childhood adversity and psychosis. The 4 studies that investigated a gene-environment interaction between schizophrenia PRS and childhood adversity in increasing risk of psychosis reported inconsistent results.
These findings suggest that a gene-environment correlation could explain a small proportion of the relationship between reported childhood adversity and psychosis.