Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 43, Issue 3, pp 453–463 | Cite as

Physical and Sexual Abuse and Early-Onset Bipolar Disorder in Youths Receiving Outpatient Services: Frequent, but Not Specific

  • Tina Du Rocher Schudlich
  • Eric A. Youngstrom
  • Maria Martinez
  • Jennifer KogosYoungstrom
  • Kelly Scovil
  • Jody Ross
  • Norah C. Feeny
  • Robert L. Findling


The objective of this study was to determine if physical and sexual abuse showed relationships to early-onset bipolar spectrum disorders (BPSD) consistent with findings from adult retrospective data. Participants (N = 829, M = 10.9 years old ± 3.4 SD, 60 % male, 69 % African American, and 18 % with BPSD), primarily from a low socio-economic status, presented to an urban community mental health center and a university research center. Physical abuse was reported in 21 %, sexual abuse in 20 %, and both physical and sexual abuse in 11 % of youths with BPSD. For youths without BPSD, physical abuse was reported in 16 %, sexual abuse in 15 %, and both physical and sexual abuse in 5 % of youths. Among youth with BPSD, physical abuse was significantly associated with a worse global family environment, more severe depressive and manic symptoms, a greater number of sub-threshold manic/hypomanic symptoms, a greater likelihood of suicidality, a greater likelihood of being diagnosed with PTSD, and more self-reports of alcohol or drug use. Among youth with BPSD, sexual abuse was significantly associated with a worse global family environment, more severe manic symptoms, a greater number of sub-threshold manic/hypomanic symptoms, greater mood swings, more frequent episodes, more reports of past hospitalizations, and a greater number of current and past comorbid Axis I diagnoses. These findings suggest that if physical and/or sexual abuse is reported, clinicians should note that abuse appears to be related to increased severity of symptoms, substance use, greater co-morbidity, suicidality, and a worse family environment.


Bipolar disorder Sexual abuse Physical abuse Children Adolescents 



This research was supported by NIH 5R01 MH066647 (PI: E. Youngstrom). Dr. Findling receives or has received research support, acted as a consultant and/or served on a speaker’s bureau for Alexza Pharmaceuticals, American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, American Physician Institute, American Psychiatric Press, AstraZeneca, Bracket, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Clinsys, Cognition Group, Coronado Biosciences, Dana Foundation, Forest, GlaxoSmithKline, Guilford Press, Johns Hopkins University Press, Johnson & Johnson, KemPharm, Lilly, Lundbeck, Merck, NIH, Novartis, Noven, Otsuka, Oxford University Press, Pfizer, Physicians Postgraduate Press, Rhodes Pharmaceuticals, Roche, Sage, Seaside Pharmaceuticals, Shire, Stanley Medical Research Institute, Sunovion, Supernus Pharmaceuticals, Transcept Pharmaceuticals, Validus, and WebMD.Dr. E. Youngstrom has received travel support from Bristol-Myers Squibb and consulted with Lundbeck.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tina Du Rocher Schudlich
    • 1
  • Eric A. Youngstrom
    • 2
  • Maria Martinez
    • 2
  • Jennifer KogosYoungstrom
    • 2
  • Kelly Scovil
    • 3
  • Jody Ross
    • 4
  • Norah C. Feeny
    • 5
  • Robert L. Findling
    • 6
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyWestern Washington UniversityBellinghamUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA
  3. 3.Department of Counseling and Clinical PsychologyColumbia Teacher’s CollegeNew YorkUSA
  4. 4.Indiana University – Purdue University Fort WayneFort WayneUSA
  5. 5.Department of PsychologyCase Western Reserve UniversityClevelandUSA
  6. 6.Department of PsychiatryJohns Hopkins University and Kennedy Krieger InstituteBaltimoreUSA

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