Childhood Maltreatment and Bipolar Disorder: A Critical Review of the Evidence

Fisher, Helen L. and Hosang, Georgina M.. 2010. Childhood Maltreatment and Bipolar Disorder: A Critical Review of the Evidence. Mind & Brain: The Journal of Psychiatry, 1(1), pp. 75-85. ISSN 2042-468X [Article]

No full text available

Abstract or Description

Research exploring the potential role of childhood maltreatment in the onset and course of bipolar disorder (BD) has burgeoned over the past decade. However, the quality of these studies has been called into question, and a systematic approach is required to review this expanding literature.

Electronic and manual searches were conducted to locate all published papers that had investigated the association between childhood maltreatment and BD. Studies that reported prevalence rates of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse or neglect among individuals with BD were selected. Papers were also included if they had explored the association between maltreatment exposure and the major clinical features of the disorder (age at onset, duration of untreated illness, rapid cycling, psychotic features, and suicidal behavior).

Twenty-nine papers were included in this review, but a wide range of methodological limitations were identified, indicating that the results of existing studies should be interpreted cautiously. Only six studies utilized psychometrically tested measures of maltreatment, diagnostic interviews for BD, and included at least 100 affected individuals. Childhood maltreatment was tentatively shown to be more common in BD than in control subjects, but prevalence rates varied. There was also inconsistency for associations with the clinical expression of BD. Increased suicide attempts among those exposed to sexual or emotional abuse was the only replicated finding.

Associations between childhood maltreatment and the development and clinical presentation of BD remain unclear. Systematic investigation utilizing scientifically rigorous approaches is required to establish the potentially important etiological and clinical implications of early adversity for BD.

Item Type:



child abuse - research; bipolar disorder in children - research; psychological child abuse; abused children; child sexual abuse; suicidal behavior; diseases - causes & theories of causation; psychometrics; clinical trials

Departments, Centres and Research Units:



May 2010Published

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

23 Apr 2014 10:02

Last Modified:

30 Jun 2017 15:55

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


Edit Record Edit Record (login required)