Parents Make Kids More Stressed

Children of bipolar parents more sensitive to stress

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) The moods and behavior of parents affect their kids tremendously. And the children of bipolar parents are particularly sensitive.

Children who have a parent suffering from bipolar disorder are more prone to stress, according to a recently published international study.

"Children who have a parent with bipolar disorder need to keep their stress levels in check."

"Previous research has shown that children of parents with bipolar disorder are four times as likely to develop mood disorders as those from parents without the condition," says senior author Mark Ellenbogen, Canada Research Chair in Developmental Psychopathology at Concordia University and a member of the Centre for Research in Human Development. "The goal of our study was to determine how this is happening."

The study, led by Concordia University, suggests the stress hormone cortisol is a key player in bipolar disorder. Researchers demonstrated for the first time that cortisol increases more quickly in these children as they respond to stressors in normal everyday life.

Ellenbogen and colleagues had already shown that cortisol levels in children with a bipolar parent were higher than kids whose parents were unaffected by the condition. The current study measured cortisol levels in these same participants, now in late adolescence and early adulthood, as well as chronic (ongoing) and episodic (periodic) stress.

When exposed to either type of stress, children of parents with bipolar disorder showed a greater increase in cortisol than those of parents without the disorder.

The findings have been published in Psychological Medicine.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
May 13, 2011
Last Updated:
May 16, 2011