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Young children of affectively ill parents: a longitudinal study of psychosocial development.

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National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, MD 20892.


The course of social-emotional development of young children of affectively ill and well parents was assessed. The families were classified by mother's diagnosis: bipolar illness (N = 22), unipolar depression (N = 41), and normal (N = 37). Father's diagnosis also was obtained. Pairs of siblings were studied; the younger was between 1 1/2 and 3 1/2 years and the older between 5 and 8 years when the study began. They were seen again 3 years later. Psychiatric assessment and mother's report were used to evaluate children's disruptive behavior, anxiety, and depressive characteristics. The frequency of problem-level behavior changed over time in relation to mother's diagnosis. By middle and late childhood, significantly more children of affectively ill than well mothers had depressive and disruptive problems and multiple behavior problems. Offspring of unipolar mothers developed problems earlier and both siblings were more likely to have behavior problems.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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