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Am J Psychiatry. 2010 Mar;167(3):321-30. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2009.09070977. Epub 2010 Jan 15.

Psychiatric disorders in preschool offspring of parents with bipolar disorder: the Pittsburgh Bipolar Offspring Study (BIOS).

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA.



The authors evaluated lifetime prevalence and specificity of DSM-IV psychiatric disorders and severity of depressive and manic symptoms at intake in preschool offspring of parents with bipolar I and II disorders.


A total of 121 offspring ages 2-5 years from 83 parents with bipolar disorder and 102 offspring of 65 demographically matched comparison parents (29 with non-bipolar psychiatric disorders and 36 without any lifetime psychopathology) were recruited for the study. Parents with bipolar disorder were recruited through advertisements and adult outpatient clinics, and comparison parents were ascertained at random from the community. Participants were evaluated with standardized instruments. All staff were blind to parental diagnoses.


After adjustment for within-family correlations and both biological parents' non-bipolar psychopathology, offspring of parents with bipolar disorder, particularly those older than age 4, showed an eightfold greater lifetime prevalence of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and significantly higher rates of having two or more psychiatric disorders compared to the offspring of the comparison parents. While only three offspring of parents with bipolar disorder had mood disorders, offspring of parents with bipolar disorder, especially those with ADHD and oppositional defiant disorder, had significantly more severe current manic and depressive symptoms than comparison offspring.


Preschool offspring of parents with bipolar disorder have an elevated risk for ADHD and have greater levels of subthreshold manic and depressive symptoms than children of comparison parents. Longitudinal follow-up is warranted to evaluate whether these children are at high risk for developing mood and other psychiatric disorders.

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