- • The onset of bipolar disorder during adolescence has a serious impact on social and occupational functioning.
- • Parents attributed the onset of bipolar disorder in their child to childhood adversity, parenting or substance misuse.
- • Parents often blame themselves for the development of bipolar disorder in their child.
The aims of this study were to examine parental views on the onset of symptoms, impact on functioning and meanings attributed to their child's bipolar disorder. Early onset bipolar disorder impacts on development and functioning across multiple domains. Psychosocial disability fluctuates in parallel with changes in affective symptoms and may significantly affect family members. This study utilized descriptive statistical data and qualitative data from parental self-reports of 85 participants in a trial of psychotherapy for young people (15–34 years) with bipolar disorder. A content analysis was conducted on the written self-reports. Most parents identified the onset of depressive symptoms in their child by early adolescence, but it was not until late adolescence, or later, that parents noted symptoms of mania. The onset of symptoms during a crucial period of development had a considerable impact on social and occupational functioning. Without prompting, the parents took the opportunity to attempt to make sense of the diagnosis by attributing its onset to childhood adversity, parenting or substance misuse. Parents often blame themselves for the development of bipolar disorder in their child. Nursing care for clients with bipolar disorder could include interventions for the family to help them understand and manage the disorder. Such interventions could include: psycho-education, communication enhancement and problem-solving skills training.