• Article

Parenting with bipolar disorder Coping with risk of mood disorders to children

Children of individuals with bipolar disorder (BPD) have increased risk for mood disorders and other adverse psychosocial outcomes due to genetic and environmental risk. Though parents with BPD are aware of increased risk to children, little is known about efforts undertaken in response or their perceived utility. Among parents who self-report with BPD, this study identifies key variables associated with parental coping with children's risk of mood disorders; and explores the relationship between monitoring children's moods and perceived coping efficacy. In this U.S. study, active parental coping with, and cognitive distancing from, child's risk were measured using novel scales. Parents (n = 266) who self-identified as having BPD completed a web-based survey. They had at least one unaffected child. Most participants endorsed monitoring their children's moods. Monitoring was associated with increased perceived control over the child's well-being (p < 0.005), but not feeling less worried. Active parental coping with risk to children was positively associated with active coping with own illness (β = 0.25, p = 0.001), family history (β = 0.24, p = 0.001), and self-report of current depression (β = 0.16, p = 0.037), explaining 13.8% of the variance (F = 8.81, p < 0.001). Cognitive distancing from the child's risk was positively associated with confidence in diagnosis (β = 0.25, p = 0.001), and negatively associated with self-report of current mania (β = -0.19, p = 0.007), perceiving BPD as genetic (β = -0.26, p < 0.001) and having more children (β = -0.20, p = 0.004); explaining 16.2% of the variance (F = 8.63, p < 0.001). Parents' adaptation to their own BPD was modestly correlated with active coping with child's risk (r = 0.15, p < 0.05) but not with cognitive distancing. The findings support the importance of understanding causal attributions and the value of genetic education and counseling for parents with BPD. Further research is necessary to elucidate the psychological benefits of active coping versus cognitive distancing from child's risk, and explore additional variables that predict parental coping with children's risk of mood disorders.


Peay, H. L., Rosenstein, D. L., & Biesecker, B. B. (2014). Parenting with bipolar disorder: Coping with risk of mood disorders to children. Social Science and Medicine, 104, 194-200. DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2013.10.022