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Research on paranoia in adults suggests a spectrum of severity, but this
dimensional approach has yet to be applied to children or to groups from
To investigate the structure, prevalence and correlates of mistrust in
children living in the UK and Hong Kong.
Children aged 8–14 years from the UK (n = 1086) and Hong
Kong (n = 1412) completed a newly developed mistrust
questionnaire as well as standard questionnaire measures of anxiety,
self-esteem, aggression and callous–unemotional traits.
Confirmatory factor analysis of the UK data supported a three-factor
model – mistrust at home, mistrust at school and general mistrust – with
a clear positive skew in the data: just 3.4%, 8.5% and 4.1% of the
children endorsed at least half of the mistrust items for home, school
and general subscales respectively. These findings were replicated in
Hong Kong. Moreover, compared with their peers, ‘mistrustful’ children
(in both countries) reported elevated rates of anxiety, low self-esteem,
aggression and callous–unemotional traits.
Mistrust may exist as a quantitative trait in children, which, as in
adults, is associated with elevated risks of internalising and
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