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The development of thought problems: A longitudinal family risk study of offspring of bipolar, unipolar, and well parents

  • Bonnie Klimes-Dougan (a1), Christopher David Desjardins (a1), Matthew G. James (a1), Angela J. Narayan (a1), Jeffrey D. Long (a2), Kathryn R. Cullen (a1), Philip W. Gold (a3) and Pedro E. Martinez (a3)...


There is growing evidence that many offspring of parents with bipolar disorder (BD) will develop moderate to severe forms of psychopathology during childhood and adolescence, including thought problems. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the developmental progression of thought problems within the context of a family risk study. Repeated assessments of thought problems, spanning approximately 15 years, were conducted in offspring (N = 192 from 98 families) of parents diagnosed with BD (O-BD), unipolar depression (O-UNI), or no significant psychiatric or medical problems (O-WELL). Survival analysis showed that the O-BD group had the greatest estimated probability of developing thought problems over time, followed by O-UNI, and then O-WELL and O-BD exhibiting higher levels of persistence than O-WELL. Parent-reported thought problems in childhood and adolescence predicted a range of problems in young adulthood. Disturbances in reality testing and other atypical behaviors are likely to disrupt progression through important developmental periods and to associate with poor outcomes. These findings are likely relevant to preventing the occurrence or progression of problems in offspring of bipolar parents. The study of thought problems across development represents an important area of continued research in children at risk for development of affective disorders.


Corresponding author

Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Bonnie Klimes-Dougan, Psychology Department, University of Minnesota, 75 East River Road, 412 Elliot Hall, Minneapolis, MN 55455; E-mail:


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