The effect of number, severity and loss-aspect of stressful life events on the onset of psychopathology in bipolar offspring
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Background: Bipolar offspring are genetically at high risk of developing bipolar disorder (BD) and psychopathology in general. From twin –studies we know gene-environment interaction is responsible for this. One possible environmental factor, thought to be involved in the onset of psychopathology, are stressful life events (SLE’s). The aim of this research is to study the effect of number, severity and loss-aspect of SLE’s on pathogenic onset. Method: Lifetime DSM-IV diagnoses of 129 bipolar offspring were obtained. To assess SLE’s the Bedford College Life Events and Difficulty Schedule (LEDS) was used. Binary logistic regression analyses were preformed to calculate odds ratios for the number, severity and loss-aspect of SLE’s on pathogenic onset. Results: Number, severity and loss-aspect of SLE’s, are all individually significant predictors for the presence of psychopathology. Number of SLE’s is the best predictor of the three parameters tested, in both mood disorders and psychopathology in general. Conclusion: In this study we expected that cumulative SLE’s, severe events and events with a greater loss-aspect are predictors of psychopathology. These expectations have been met, with the number of SLE’s as best predictor. One possible explanation for this association is a kindling effect.