Parental bipolar disorder, family environment, and offspring psychiatric disorders: A systematic review

Emma K. Stapp, Tamar Mendelson, Kathleen R. Merikangas, Holly C. Wilcox

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background: Our objective was to systematically review non-experimental studies of parental bipolar disorder (BD), current family environment, and offspring psychiatric disorders to identify characteristics of family environment associated with parental BD and risk for offspring psychiatric disorders. Methods: CINAHL, Embase, PsycINFO, and PubMed were searched using MeSH terms to identify studies on offspring of BD parents published through September 2017. We followed PRISMA guidelines and used the Risk of Bias Assessment Tool for Nonrandomized Studies (RoBANS). We calculated prevalence ratios and 95% confidence intervals to compare offspring psychiatric disorders within and across studies. Results: Of 10,454 unique documents retrieved, we included 13 studies. The most consistent finding was lower parent-reported cohesion in families with a BD parent versus no parental psychiatric disorders. Family environment did not differ between BD parents and parents with other disorders. Offspring of BD parents had higher prevalence of psychiatric disorders than offspring of parents without psychiatric disorders but did not differ from offspring of parents with other disorders. Families with a BD child had higher conflict than families without a BD child. Limitations: Comparisons between studies were qualitative. A single reviewer conducted screening, data extraction, and bias assessment. Conclusions: Family environment in families with a BD parent is heterogeneous. The pattern of findings across studies also suggests that family problems may be associated with parental psychiatric illness generally rather than parental BD in particular. Few studies included offspring-reported measures. Given the association of family conflict with offspring mood disorders, further study is merited on children's perceptions of the family environment in the BD high-risk context.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)69-81
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
StatePublished - May 1 2020


  • Bipolar disorder
  • Family environment
  • High-risk
  • Parenting, family climate

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Psychology


Dive into the research topics of 'Parental bipolar disorder, family environment, and offspring psychiatric disorders: A systematic review'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this