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Curr Opin Psychiatry. 2018 Jul;31(4):349-357. doi: 10.1097/YCO.0000000000000423.

Offspring of parents with mood disorders: time for more transgenerational research, screening and preventive intervention for this high-risk population.

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Department of Child and Adolescent Psychology and Psychiatry, Erasmus Medical Center, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.
Department of Psychiatry, Amsterdam Public Health Research Institute, VU Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.



Offspring of parents with mood disorders (major depressive and bipolar disorder) are at increased risk for developing mood disorders. In this review, an overview regarding the intergenerational transmission of mood disorders, screening, and preventive intervention is given for this vulnerable group.


Offspring of parents with depression have a 40% chance of developing a depression, whereas offspring of parents with bipolar disorder have a 10% chance of developing a bipolar disorder by adulthood. Studies into the intergenerational transmission of mood disorders show that children of parents with mood disorders have increased biological dysregulation and neuropsychosocial impairments. Although there is a clear need for early identification of those at the highest risk, there are few systematic attempts in mental health care to screen children of parents with mood disorders. Lastly, preventive interventions seem to be effective in reducing depressive symptoms of children of parents with depression; however, those effects are small and short-lived.


Offspring of parents with mood disorders constitute a vulnerable group at high risk of mood disorders. More research needs to be conducted regarding mechanisms of the intergenerational transmission. Moreover, screening and preventive interventions for these offspring should be systematically evaluated and implemented.

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