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J Affect Disord. 2009 Apr;114(1-3):174-83. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2008.07.001. Epub 2008 Aug 20.

Psychosocial functioning among bipolar youth.

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  • 1Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States.



Evidence indicates that children and adolescents with bipolar disorder (BP) experience significant functional impairment. However, little is known about the association between psychosocial functioning and episodes of illness, demographic, and clinical variables in this population.


Subjects included 446 patients aged 7 to 17 diagnosed with DSM-IV bipolar disorder via the K-SADS for the Course and Outcome of Bipolar Youth (COBY) study. The Psychosocial Functioning Schedule of the Adolescent Longitudinal Interval Follow-Up Assessment (A-LIFE) was administered at study intake.


Mild to moderate levels of psychosocial impairment were evident in work (includes academics), interpersonal, and overall domains of functioning among BP youth. Multivariate analyses indicated that the strongest predictors of psychosocial impairment were adolescence (regardless of age of onset), current mood episode, current affective symptom severity, current psychotic symptoms, and current comorbid conduct disorder. Bipolar youth in-episode were significantly more impaired than those in partial remission/recovery in every functional domain examined and were less satisfied with their functioning. Yet, BP youth in partial remission/recovery reported significant psychosocial impairment.


Limitations include the reliance on patient and parent retrospective report of psychosocial functioning. Additionally, we did not account for the impact of psychosocial and pharmacological interventions on functioning.


Findings suggest pediatric BP is associated with significant impairment in psychosocial functioning during and between episodes, with greater impairment during mood episodes than during partial remission/recovery. Additionally, functional impairment in BP appears to increase during adolescence regardless of age of onset. Clinicians should carefully assess and address psychosocial impairment during and between mood episodes, with particular attention to the functioning of BP adolescents.

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