with 80 children and youngsters who are hearing voices.
In 1993 we started a three year follow-up study with 80 children and youngster between 8 and 18 years old. In our previous adult studies about 10% reported to have started hearing voice when still a child. This made us curious to know more about the voice hearing experience of youngsters. We started with a pilot study to explore the availability of children hearing voices. As with our "experiment" we involved the media. In the same talk show as was involved earlier "Sonja on Monday", Marius went with an eight year old boy who told about his hearing voices experience and he asked children and youngster who heard voice to take part in a meeting together in Artis, the Zoo, in Amsterdam. We got 150 reaction of which 75 were in the age group of 8 to 18 year old. It was a very special conference. The youngsters talked enthusiastically about their voice hearing experience and the parents separately exchanged their experience with their youngsters. After the conference we decided to write a study design and started looking for money, which we got from the so called "prevention fund .
We then could start with our three year follow-up study in 1996. Also now we used the media to get into contact with youngsters hearing voices. This was successful because in one year time 80 youngsters applied to participate. The youngsters lived spread out all over the country so it took quite some travelling time because Sandra and her research partner –Alex- went to visit the youngsters at their home, to interview them in the presence of at least one parent.
In this study Sandra Escher used four instruments: The Maastricht interview for youngsters hearing voices, a version of the adult interview reworked for children and youngsters; The brief psychiatric rating scale (BPRS) The dissociative experience scale (DES); The Youth Self Report (Verhulst).
From the analysis it showed:
60% of the youngsters lost their voices during the research period. Hearing voices is an experience that can vanish mostly depending on the kids emotional development.
85% of the youngsters started to hear voice after one or more traumatic experiences.
22% after the death of a beloved one:. grandparents friends.
23% in relation to problems at school: conflicts with teachers or with peers.
23% in relation to problems at home like divorce, interactions peer group.
21% after different kind of trauma's like sexual abuse, traffic accident, narcosis, birth trauma.
The losing or staying on of the voice hearing experience was statistically related to:
a high score on the anxiety rating at the BPRS went with staying on of the experience.
a high score on the depression scale of the BPRS went also with staying on of voices.
a high score on dissociation (DES) also went with staying on of the voices'.
a high frequency of hearing their voices (interview) was related to staying on.
These factors anxiety, depression and dissociation are factors that can be attended to in the therapy.
Although we have not measured this we were impressed by the positive influence of holding the interview in the presence of the parent(s). The great anxiety of the fact their child heard voices diminished. The hearing voices experience was normalized and the parents got more respect for the knowledge of the children about their voices. The parents also got more insight in the problems, their child had with their voices. The child changed from a child with possibly schizophrenia into their own child again. The youngster became accepted again in the family and not a mad child.
Emotions and hearing voices are interconnected. Youngsters had to learn to cope with those emotions that were giving them difficulties We observed that Mental health professionals and general practitioners who focused on the development of the youngster and stimulated their development were more effective and successful compared with professional who interpreted the voices problem as a symptom of an illness and tend to prescribe medication. Parents who were curious and interested in their youngsters hearing voice experience and changed of care professional when their care did not fit with their child 's experiences, (for example did not accept the voices), had better results with their youngsters problems then parents who stuck to the illness model.
This study served for Sandra Escher as the base for her M.Phil in Birmingham supervised by Mervyn Morris. On the basis of the articles Sandra Escher got a Ph.D at the University of Maastricht (2005)
Sandra Escher reworked her study into a psycho-education book for children hearing voices and their parents which was published in 2008 by PCCS Ross-on-Wye, England.
Most important publications about this study were (with Van Os ; Delespaul , Romme and Buiks)
Independant course of childhood auditory hallucinations; British Journal of psychiatry (2002).
Coping defence and depression in adolescents hearing voices; Journal Mental Health (2003)
Determinants of outcome in the care for children; Int. Journ. Social Welfare With M.Morris (2004)