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Keywords:

  • affective disorder;
  • bipolar;
  • children;
  • life events;
  • psychosocial;
  • social supports;
  • teens

Objectives:  This multi-site study investigated the frequency of risk-related variables for developing an affective disorder using a within-pedigree control group. We wished to determine the effect of life events, social relationships, self-perceived competence, and aspects of home environment for youngsters from extended families with loading for bipolar disorder. Using a within-family contrast group, we address the following two issues: (1) Do offspring or their parents from families who do and do not have an affected parent report differences (i) in home environment? (ii) in frequency and type of offspring life events? and (iii) in social relations and self-perception? and (2) Do children or their parents who do or do not have an affective disorder report differently on these areas?

Methods:  Juvenile offspring (n = 50) and their parents from 14 bipolar pedigrees were assessed. Structured interviews and self- or parent-reported instruments were used to compare offspring with an affected first-degree relative to those without and to compare offspring with or without an affective disorder.

Results:  Only one significant psychosocial difference was found between offspring with or without a parent with an affective disorder but several were found between offspring who themselves did or did not have an affective disorder. These differences are in the areas of the need for discipline, social support, and dependent negative life events.

Conclusions:  The findings identify potential early psychosocial markers for affective disorder in high risk offspring.