Schizophrenia or bipolar disorder in parents likely to raise risk of mental illnesses in children

The potential causes of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder are not completely known. This has led scientists to conduct researches to find out if hereditary transmission of the disorders may result in mental health problems among children. Now, a new study has found that children born to parents afflicted with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder are at a greater likelihood of feeling aggrieved with emotional disorders by the time they reach seven years of age.

Researchers at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark surveyed 522 children aged seven years during the initial phase of the study titled the Danish High Risk and Resilience Study-VIA 7. Out of the total number of respondents, 202 children were born to at least one person detected with schizophrenia, 120 belonged to at least one parent diagnosed with signs of bipolar disorder, while the rest were born to parents who had not been suffering from any of these diseases.

Do familial mental disorders affect children?

The findings of the study revealed that children born to schizophrenic parents or people with bipolar disorder scored more than their counterparts included in the control group. The scientists observed the same by making use of the child behavior checklist (CBCL). The researchers made use of a questionnaire consisting of more than 100 questions handed over to parents and teachers. A higher score indicated more problems.

The average scores for children belonging to the schizophrenia group were 27.2 while that of those belonging to bipolar disorder group were 23.5. The mean scores of those grouped among the controls were 17.1. Marked distinctions between the three groups regarding psychopathology, neurocognitive abilities, functioning of motor skills and their home environment were observed.

Factors affecting mental development of children

The scientists observed that children belonging to schizophrenic parents and to some extent parents with bipolar disorder were at a greater risk of mental problems such as anxiousness, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and stress/adjustment disorder. These children were also at an increased likelihood of manifesting signs pertaining to neurocognitive disabilities or delays apart from growing up in families belonging to lower social status. The potential risk of being exposed to hazardous life events was also found to be high.

Elucidating the observations of the study, co-author Anne Thorup said, “Results from this first assessment in the VIA 7 study indicate that many children and families have unmet needs and problems. We plan to follow the children until age 11 years to conduct a new assessment before puberty. We do not know if the impaired children will catch up in neurocognitive areas or if their mental problems will be in remission but since social aspects and environmental factors contribute significantly to child development, and they were quite marked already at age seven years, we are expecting that similar or even worse results could be seen at age 11 years.”

Mental illnesses can be treated

It is necessary to look into mental illnesses in children that may be the result of mental disorders in parents. Experts stress on the relevance of familial high-risk researches, which may enable a better understanding of early indicators of psychiatric disorders and susceptibility to mental health problems. It is necessary to consider the prevalence of mental disorders with the same level of seriousness as one considers the disability posed by physiological diseases.

If you or a loved one is grappling with any kind of mental illness, you may seek help from the 24/7 Mental Health Helpline to know about mental health disorders. You can call us at our 24/7 helpline number 855-653-8178 or chat online with our representatives, who can guide you to one of the best mental health rehabilitation centers and mental health facilities in your vicinity.