Life events; their role in onset and relapse in psychosis, research utilizing semi-structured interview methods: a literature review

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This literature review explores the findings of studies that adopted semi-structured interviewing methods to assess the impact of life events on the course of psychotic illness. It begins by discussing the historical context and theoretical underpinnings of the use of semi-structured approaches to measure the role and impact of life events in the onset and course of psychotic illness. The review then focuses on the main findings of the studies commencing by focusing on causality by specifically discussing the time frame from life event to relapse and whether life events have a triggering role or cumulative effect in onset. The review examines the sample populations studied and asks whether they are homogenous and comparable or heterogeneous, therefore making comparisons between studies less valid. Issues concerning the number of episodes of illness and sensitivity to relapse are explored. The review concludes that despite a general acceptance in the literature that life events have an impact on psychotic illness the findings of life events studies provide contradictory and inconclusive results and that this is at least partly attributable to the differing methodologies utilized. Continued methodological refinements may generate a ‘gold standard’ methodology that with repeated use will provide consistency in findings.

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