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Prospective study of prodromal features for bipolarity in well Amish children.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of Miami School of Medicine, USA.



A prospective study of psychiatrically well Amish children to determine differences in the frequency and pattern of clinical features that may be prodromal for bipolar I disorder.


Children with a bipolar I parent (n = 100) and children of well parents in a matched control sample (n = 110) were assessed annually for 7 years with semistructured interviews covering medical/developmental features and symptoms/behaviors that are possibly prodromal for bipolarity. Randomized histories of these 210 children were evaluated blindly by 4 clinicians for independent ratings of risk for bipolarity.


Thirty-eight percent of the children of bipolar parents were rated as at risk compared with 17% of children in the control sample. Most control sample children with risk ratings had well parents with a bipolar sibling (i.e., family history positive). Children with family histories negative for mental illness rarely received even a low risk rating. Clinical features significantly (p <or=.05) more frequent among children of a bipolar parent included mood lability, low energy, anxious/worried, hyper-alert, attention problems/distractible and school role impairment, easily excited, sensitivity, somatic complaints, and stubborn/determined.


Mini-clusters of early possible predictors suggest a natural history of episodic prodromal features rather than the chronic symptom pattern sometimes described for children at risk for bipolar disorder.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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