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Basic symptoms, defined as subjectively perceived disturbances in thought, perception and other essential mental processes, have been established as a predictor of psychotic disorders. However, the relationship between basic symptoms and family history of a transdiagnostic range of severe mental illness, including major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, has not been examined.
We sought to test whether non-severe mood disorders and severe mood and psychotic disorders in parents is associated with increased basic symptoms in their biological offspring.
We measured basic symptoms using the Schizophrenia Proneness Instrument – Child and Youth Version in 332 youth aged 8–26 years, including 93 offspring of control parents, 92 offspring of a parent with non-severe mood disorders, and 147 offspring of a parent with severe mood and psychotic disorders. We tested the relationships between parent mental illness and offspring basic symptoms in mixed-effects linear regression models.
Offspring of a parent with severe mood and psychotic disorders (B = 0.69, 95% CI 0.22–1.16, P = 0.004) or illness with psychotic features (B = 0.68, 95% CI 0.09–1.27, P = 0.023) had significantly higher basic symptom scores than control offspring. Offspring of a parent with non-severe mood disorders reported intermediate levels of basic symptoms, that did not significantly differ from control offspring.
Basic symptoms during childhood are a marker of familial risk of psychopathology that is related to severity and is not specific to psychotic illness.
It has been suggested that offspring of parents with bipolar disorder are at increased risk for disruptive mood dysregulation disorder (DMDD), but the specificity of this association has not been established.
We examined the specificity of DMDD to family history by comparing offspring of parents with (a) bipolar disorder, (b) major depressive disorder and (c) a control group with no mood disorders.
We established lifetime diagnosis of DMDD using the Schedule for Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia for School Aged Children for DSM-5 in 180 youth aged 6–18 years, including 58 offspring of parents with bipolar disorder, 82 offspring of parents with major depressive disorder and 40 control offspring.
Diagnostic criteria for DMDD were met in none of the offspring of parents with bipolar disorder, 6 of the offspring of parents with major depressive disorder and none of the control offspring. DMDD diagnosis was significantly associated with family history of major depressive disorder.
Our results suggest that DMDD is not specifically associated with a family history of bipolar disorder and may be associated with parental depression.
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