Recent genetic studies have shown there may be shared genetics in some neuropsychiatric disorders. The researchers in this Australian study were interested to look at risks of learning disability and other neuropsychiatric outcomes in 3174 children born to mothers with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or unipolar major depression.
They compared this risk with a control group of 3129 children of mothers unaffected by any mental health issues. To explore this issue, they designed a record linkage study, using population registers in Western Australian.
They found that children were at significantly increased risk of learning disability with odds ratios of 3.2 for mothers with schizophrenia, 3.1 for those with bipolar disorder and 2.9 for those with unipolar depression. They used multivariate analysis to look at the contribution to the risk made by the familial and obstetric factors and found that these may contribute independently to the risk.
In terms of obstetric factors, labour/delivery complications did not reach significance, but neonatal encephalopathy and foetal distress were found to be independent significant predictors.
They also found that rates of rare syndromes well above what would be suspected in the children of mothers with mental disorders. They also found that for the children of mothers with bipolar disorder, the risk of pervasive developmental disorders, including autism, was significantly raised. For the children of mothers unipolar depression, the risk of epilepsy was doubled compared with those in the control group.
The authors conclude that the findings from this study suggest support for the notion of clustering of neuropsychiatric disorders. They call for larger epidemiological studies to explore these links further.
Intellectual disability and other neuropsychiatric outcomes in high-risk children of mothers with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and unipolar major depression, Morgan V et al., in British Journal of Psychiatry, 200,4, 282-289