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David Baxter

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Children of bipolar parents at risk for bipolar, other psychiatric disorders
18 July 2007
J Affect Disord 2007; 102: 131?136

Children of bipolar parents are at high risk for developing bipolar disorder and other psychiatric conditions, say US researchers.

"The study of children of bipolar parents who are at high risk for developing bipolar disorder themselves is essential to identify prodromal manifestations of the disorder and to eventually establish targeted early intervention strategies," the authors write in the Journal of Affective Disorders.

Melissa DelBello (University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, Ohio) and colleagues examined the presence of psychopathology in 37 children aged 8 to 17 years who had at least one parent with Bipolar I disorder and 29 demographically matched children with mentally healthy parents.

Overall, 78% of children with bipolar parents were diagnosed with at least one DSM-IV Axis I diagnosis compared with 24% of children with healthy parents.

Bipolar I disorder was diagnosed in 16% of children with bipolar parents and none of the children with healthy parents.

High-risk offspring also had significantly higher rates of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), affective disorders − including dysthymia and major depressive disorder − disruptive behavior disorders, and subsyndromal manifestations of psychopathology, compared with children of healthy parents.

Thirteen (35%) children with bipolar parents had been treated with antidepressants, antipsychotics, psychostimulants, or mood stabilizers, compared with only one (3%) child with healthy parents, who had received a psychostimulant.

DelBello et al conclude: "Our results indicate that child and adolescent offspring of parents with bipolar I disorder have an elevated risk for developing affective disorders, especially bipolar disorders, ADHD, and disruptive behavior disorders."

They highlight that longitudinal studies are needed to confirm prodromal manifestations of bipolar disorder and risk factors associated with the development of specific diagnoses in children.

Abstract
 

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