Bipolar Mom-Effects on Child?
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Q:  Bipolar Mom-Effects on Child?

I'm wondering about research about the effects on children who are raised primarily by a parent who suffers from bi-polar affective disorder.  Stress levels, future emotional problems, schoolwork, friends, etc.  The child 6, is not bi-polar but is subjected to instability, his mother sometimes gets drunk and passes out as well in front of him.  She is supervised by her own mother under court order (she held up a waitress at a bar with a gun).  So he lives with his mom & grandmom.  What does the future have in store for him?

Thank you

Dear Mary -- 
I'm sorry to say that the stress of living under circumstances like this may be one of the primary triggers that causes someone with the genetic susceptibility to bipolar disorder to end up actually having symptoms (i.e. where without the stress he/she might not have expressed those symptoms).  However, note the word "may"; this is not certain.  A little
essay I wrote on stress hormones might be of interest, and speaks to this general idea.  

Basically the same kind of measures you might want to take to help this young boy, reducing in any way you can the amount of stress from lack of maternal care, i.e. the steps you would take even if he didn't have any risk of bipolar disorder, just for his own sake -- those steps are worth taking in the name of preventing bipolar disorder as well, based on our current understanding.  So, you can see it may not really matter whether the research on this kind of stress and bipolar risk is correct, yes?  You'd want to take the same steps anyway, but this way of thinking, and they are important steps -- but surely somewhere between difficult and impossible.  

Dr. Phelps

Published September, 2001


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