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Schizophrenia is associated with lower intelligence and poor educational performance relative to the general population. This is, to a lesser degree, also found in first-degree relatives of schizophrenia patients. It is unclear whether bipolar disorder I (BD-I) patients and their relatives have similar lower intellectual and educational performance as that observed in schizophrenia.
This cross-sectional study investigated intelligence and educational performance in two outpatient samples [494 BD-I patients, 952 schizophrenia spectrum (SCZ) patients], 2231 relatives of BD-I and SCZ patients, 1104 healthy controls and 100 control siblings. Mixed-effects and regression models were used to compare groups on intelligence and educational performance.
BD-I patients were more likely to have completed the highest level of education (odds ratio 1.88, 95% confidence interval 1.66–2.70) despite having a lower IQ compared to controls (β = −9.09, s.e. = 1.27, p < 0.001). In contrast, SCZ patients showed both a lower IQ (β = −15.31, s.e. = 0.86, p < 0.001) and lower educational levels compared to controls. Siblings of both patient groups had significantly lower IQ than control siblings, but did not differ on educational performance. IQ scores did not differ between BD-I parents and SCZ parents, but BD-I parents had completed higher educational levels.
Although BD-I patients had a lower IQ than controls, they were more likely to have completed the highest level of education. This contrasts with SCZ patients, who showed both intellectual and educational deficits compared to healthy controls. Since relatives of BD-I patients did not demonstrate superior educational performance, our data suggest that high educational performance may be a distinctive feature of bipolar disorder patients.
Life events are an established risk factor for the onset and recurrence of unipolar and bipolar mood episodes, especially in the presence of genetic vulnerability. The dynamic interplay between life events and psychological context, however, is less studied. In this study, we investigated the impact of life events on the onset and recurrence of mood episodes in bipolar offspring, as well as the effects of temperament, coping and parenting style on this association.
Bipolar offspring (n = 108) were followed longitudinally from adolescence to adulthood. Mood disorders were assessed with: the Kiddie Schedule of Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia – Present and Lifetime Version or the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV Axis I disorders; life events with the Life Events and Difficulties Schedule; and psychological measures using the Utrecht Coping List, Temperament and Character Inventory and short-EMBU (memories of upbringing instrument). Anderson–Gill models (an extension of the Cox proportional hazard model) were utilized.
Life events were associated with an increased risk for first and, although less pronounced, subsequent mood episodes. There was a large confounding effect for the number of previous mood episodes; findings suggest a possible kindling effect. Passive coping style increased the risk of mood episode onset and recurrent episodes, but also altered the effect of life events on mood disorders. Harm avoidance temperament was associated with mood episode recurrence.
Life events are especially a risk factor in the onset of mood disorders, though less so in recurrent episodes. Psychological features (passive coping and harm-avoidant temperament) contribute to the risk of an episode occurring, and also have a moderating effect on the association between life events and mood episodes. These findings create potential early intervention strategies for bipolar offspring.
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