Paper in Journal of Affective Disorders
  • Lau, P., Hawes, D.J., Hunt, C., Frankland, A.,  Roberts, G.,  Wright, A., Costa, D.S.J., Mitchell, P.B. (2018). Family environment and psychopathology in offspring of parents with bipolar disorder. Journal of Affective Disorders, 226, pp. 12-20.

    The aim of this study was to examine the relationship between family environment (cohesion and parental bonding), high-risk status, and psychopathology (internalizing and externalizing problems) among offspring of parents with bipolar disorder (BD), from the perspective of both offspring and their parents. We further tested if family environment mediated the relationship between bipolar risk status and internalizing and externalizing problems.

    High-risk (n = 90) BD offspring and control (n = 56) offspring aged 12–21 years old, and their parents, completed questionnaires on family cohesion and offspring internalizing and externalizing problems. Offspring also completed a parental bonding questionnaire. Group differences were examined, followed by multi-level mediation analysis with maximum likelihood and robust standard errors.

    Both offspring and parents in the high-risk group reported higher levels of internalizing and externalizing problems than controls. According to offspring reports, high-risk status, lower maternal and paternal care in parental bonding, was independently associated with internalizing problems. Lower maternal care alone predicted externalizing problems. Family environment did not mediate the relationship between bipolar risk status, and offspring problems.

    Due to rates of missing data from parent reports of offspring psychopathology, mediation analysis was completed using offspring reports.

    The offspring-report data presented indicate that low parental warmth and connection were associated with internalizing and externalizing problems as an independent risk factor, in addition to bipolar risk status. The parent-child relationship therefore warrants attention as a potential target for prevention strategies with such families.