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Bipolar Disord. 2011 Nov-Dec;13(7-8):670-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1399-5618.2011.00966.x.

Dimensional psychopathology in offspring of parents with bipolar disorder.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh, School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, PA, USA.



To compare the dimensional psychopathology in offspring of parents with bipolar disorder (BP) with offspring of community control parents as assessed by the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL).


Offspring of parents with BP, who were healthy or had non-BP disorders (any psychiatric disorder other than BP; n = 319) or who had bipolar spectrum disorders (n = 35), and offspring of community controls (n = 235) ages 6-18 years were compared using the CBCL, the CBCL-Dysregulation Profile (CBCL-DP), and a sum of the CBCL items associated with mood lability. The results were adjusted for multiple comparisons and for any significant between-group demographic and clinical differences in both biological parents and offspring.


With few exceptions, several CBCL (e.g., Total, Internalizing, and Aggression Problems), CBCL-DP, and mood lability scores in non-BP offspring of parents with BP were significantly higher than in offspring of control parents. In addition, both groups of offspring showed significantly lower scores in most scales when compared with offspring of parents with BP who had already developed BP. Similar results were obtained when analyzing the rates of subjects with CBCL T-scores that were two standard deviations or higher above the mean.


Even before developing BP, offspring of parents with BP had more severe and higher rates of dimensional psychopathology than offspring of control parents. Prospective follow-up studies in non-BP offspring of parents with BP are warranted to evaluate whether these dimensional profiles are prodromal manifestations of mood or other disorders, and can predict those who are at higher risk to develop BP.

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