Introduction Previous studies have demonstrated that early interpersonal trauma is involved in the development of persecutory ideation. However, the specific influence of past and current social and familial variables has never been previously explored. Thus, the aim of the present study was to examine the potential role of current and past interpersonal humiliation events (e.g. to be cruelly criticized, submitted, bullied, insulted, scorned) and a negative family context on the development of persecutory ideation. Methods Current and past interpersonal humiliation events (Humiliation Inventory), a negative family context (Risky Family Questionnaire) and degree of persecutory ideation (Peters et al. Delusions Inventory) were assessed in a sample of 175 non-clinical participants (range = 18–62 years, 81% women and 19% men) with the help of an online survey. Results A pattern of significant correlations emerged, in particular, between persecutory ideation, the past and present interpersonal humiliation, and negative primary family context. Moreover, hierarchical multiple regression analysis revealed that, among the various variables, past interpersonal humiliation events and a negative family context significantly predicted higher levels of persecutory ideation. Conclusions For the first time in the literature, this study provides preliminary evidence that past interpersonal humiliation events and a negative family context are related to the development of persecutory ideation. In addition, we showed that past interpersonal humiliation events, but not the fear of current events, have an impact on the development of persecutory ideation. These results suggest that the amelioration of early familial and social contexts may help to prevent the development of persecutory ideation. © 2017 Elsevier Inc.