Impaired intellectual functioning is an important risk factor for the emergence of severe mental illness. Unlike many other forms of mental disorder however, the association between bipolar disorder and intellectual deficits is unclear. In this narrative review, we examine the current evidence on intellectual functioning in children and adolescents at risk for developing bipolar disorder. The results are based on 18 independent, peer-reviewed publications from 1980 to 2017 that met criteria for this study. The findings yielded no consistent evidence of lower or higher intellectual quotient (IQ) in offspring of parents diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Some tentative evidence was found for lower performance IQ in offspring of bipolar parents as compared to controls. It is recommended that future research examine variability in intellectual functioning and potential moderators. These findings demonstrate the need to examine how intellectual functioning unfolds across development given the potential role of IQ as a marker of vulnerability or resilience in youth at high risk for affective disorders.
Keywords: IQ; bipolar disorder; family risk; intelligence; offspring.