People diagnosed with bipolar disorder may want to keep a close eye on their children.
New research out of the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center finds these kids are at significantly higher risk for the condition themselves.
The study was conducted among 388 children of 233 parents with bipolar disorder and 251 children of 143 parents without the condition. Signs of bipolar disorder were found in about 10 percent of the kids whose parents had the condition versus less than 1 percent of those whose parents did not have the condition. Having two parents with bipolar disorder upped the risk further; about 28 percent of these kids showed signs of the problem compared to about 10 percent of those with only one affected parent.
Among parents in the study, most remembered having their first symptoms before age 20 and about 20 percent reported onset before age 13. Their children, however, appeared to first have symptoms before age 12. The researchers explain this could be because parents with bipolar disorder are more likely to recognize symptoms earlier, or it could be because the condition develops earlier in subsequent generations.
The researchers believe these results suggest doctors taking care of bipolar patients should inquire about their children's psychological health. "Clinicians who treat adults with bipolar disorder should question those who are parents about their children's psychopathology to offer prompt identification and early interventions for any psychiatric problems that may be affecting the children's functioning, particularly early-onset bipolar disorder," they report.