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This study examined the characteristics of families of adolescents with bipolar disorder during or shortly following a period of mood exacerbation, using measures of family conflict, cohesion, adaptability, and expressed emotion (EE). Demographic, diagnostic, and family functioning data were collected from 58 families (mean age = 14.48; 33 female, 25 male) before entering a randomized trial of family focused treatment. Compared to scale scores reported by healthy adolescents and their families, cohesion and adaptability were more impaired in families with an adolescent with bipolar disorder. Levels of conflict, while higher than normative scores reported by healthy families, were not significantly different from scores gathered from distressed, clinic-referred families. Parents rated high in EE reported less cohesion and adaptability, and more conflict, than parents rated low in EE. Parents expressing greater numbers of critical comments also reported more conflict than those who expressed fewer criticisms. These EE group differences were not accounted for by concurrent adolescent symptom levels. Family adaptability, cohesion, and conflict may be important targets for family treatments administered during the postepisode phases of early onset bipolar disorder.

Original publication




Journal article


J Fam Psychol

Publication Date





60 - 67


Adolescent, Adult, Bipolar Disorder, Child, Child of Impaired Parents, Conflict (Psychology), Family, Female, Humans, Male, Severity of Illness Index, Surveys and Questionnaires