• bipolar disorder;
  • early diagnosis;
  • child;
  • adolescent;
  • juvenile


Aim:  This article reviews research centred around juvenile bipolar disorder with particular reference to diagnostic difficulties. Putative deficits are scrutinized with respect to trait likelihood and the roles of neuropsychology and neuroimaging in enhancing our understanding of juvenile bipolar disorder are discussed.

Methods:  Search terms including childhood, adolescent, youth and juvenile combined with the terms ‘bipolar disorder’, mania, depression and hypomania were used to identify relevant studies in MEDLINE and PsychLit.

Results:  Over recent years research into this relatively new disorder has increased phenomenally. Key issues within the field include diagnostic specificity, the heritability of the disorder, the impact of comorbidity and the implications of neuropsychological and neuroimaging findings.

Conclusion:  Despite concerning controversies in literature the diagnosis of bipolar disorder in children and adolescents as compared with adults, promising future research directions include better neurological characterization of the disorder through the application of findings from clinical populations, neuropsychological and neuroimaging research.