Background: Paranoid thoughts are relatively common in the general population and can increase the risk of developing mental health conditions. In this study, we investigate the latent structure of paranoia in a sample of young people. Methods: Cross-sectional survey; 243 undergraduate students (males: 44.9%) aged 24.3 years (SD 3.5). The participants completed the Green et al. Paranoid Thought Scales GPTS, a 32-item scale assessing ideas of social reference and persecution; the 12-item General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12), and the 74-item Schizotypal Personality Questionnaire (SPQ). Confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) was used to confirm the two-factor structure of the GPTS. Factor mixture modeling analysis (FMMA) was applied to map the best combination of factors and latent classes of paranoia. Results: The GPTS showed excellent internal reliability and test–retest stability. Convergent validity was good, with stronger links with measures of ideas of reference and of suspiciousness than with other measures of psychosis–proneness. CFA showed excellent fit for the two-factor solution. FMMA retrieved a three-class solution with 176 subjects (72.5%) assigned to a baseline class, 54 (22.2%) to a “suspicious and mistrustful” class, and 13 (5.3%) to a “paranoid thinking” class. Compared to the baseline class, the other two classes had a higher risk of psychological distress and psychosis–proneness. Conclusions: The latent structure of paranoid thinking in young people appears dimensional. Although caution is advised when generalizing from studies on college students, screening for paranoid ideation in young people who complain about psychological distress might prove useful to prevent the development of severe and potentially debilitating conditions.
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