background Bipolar disorder runs in families. The illness is partly genetically determined and develops in conjunction with psychosocial factors.
aim To describe what is known about the psychopathology and the functioning of children whose parents suffer from bipolar disorder and to examine the early symptoms and possible predictors of bipolar disorder.
method We describe a prospective study in the Netherlands among 140 children from 86 families in which one parent had bipolar disorder. The results of this study are compared with results that have appeared in the existing literature.
results Over a period of five years the children of bipolar parents run a high risk of developing mood disorders and especially bipolar disorder. The onset and course of self-reported affective problems and depression were found to be predictors for the development of bipolar disorders. The General Behavior Inventory was found to be a useful tool for the early detection of bipolar disorder.
conclusion It is important that the children of bipolar parents be monitored intensively, particularly if they have from mood swings or depression.