Traumatic experiences, family functioning, and mood disorder development in bipolar offspring

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ObjectivesStudies in children of patients affected with bipolar disorder (BD; bipolar offspring) are at high risk to develop mood disorders. Our aim is to investigate how environmental factors such as childhood trauma and family functioning relate to the development of mood disorders in offspring at familial risk for BD.DesignThe current study is part of a longitudinal prospective cohort study among offspring of parents with BD.MethodsThe current study is part of the Dutch Bipolar Offspring Study, an ongoing prospective cohort study among adolescent offspring of a parent with BD. Bipolar offspring were psychiatrically evaluated at baseline and at 1-, 5-, and 12-year follow-up. Complete follow-up data over de 12-year follow-up were available for 102 offspring. Childhood trauma was measured with the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (CTQ) and filled out by the offspring. Family functioning was reported by the mother with the 130-item Questionnaire for Family Problems (QFP).ResultsEmotional maltreatment was significantly associated (HR = 1.82, CI 1.18–2.82, p = .007) with mood disorder onset in bipolar offspring. No association was found with the family functioning total score (HR = 1.04, CI 0.94–15, p = .085) nor its subscales.ConclusionsThe current study suggests that emotional maltreatment is associated with mood disorder development in bipolar offspring. Remarkably, the association of offspring-reported emotional maltreatment and mood disorder onset was not reflected in parent-reported family functioning (e.g., support and communication, openness or involvement). Possible explanations are discussed and warrant further study.

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