Correlates of childhood trauma in children and adolescents with bipolar disorder spectrum: A preliminary study

J Affect Disord. 2019 Mar 15:247:114-119. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2018.12.007. Epub 2018 Dec 10.


Objective: Histories of childhood trauma (CT) are risk factors for affect dysregulation and poor clinical outcomes in women with bipolar disorder (BD). While much is known about the link between BD and CT in adult patients, there is limited data on this research topic in pediatric BD (PBD). The present study aims to investigate the impact of CT on irritability, aggressive and suicidal behaviors in PBD patients across gender types.

Methods: From 2013 to 2015, 59 PBD patients Aged 6-17 (30 female) were administered the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (CTQ) along with scales assessing irritability (Affective Reactivity Index), aggression (Modified Overt Aggression Scale) and suicidal thoughts and behaviors (Columbia-Suicide Severity Rating Scale). We examined the severity of these behaviors across types of CT and gender using univariate regression analyses. Findings were adjusted for age, number of traumas, and CTQ denial score.

Results: In PBD patients, analyses showed that the effect of physical abuse depended on gender, whereby females were more likely than males to engage in suicidal thoughts and behaviors (p < 0.05). Male gender and CT were strong determinants of irritability (p < 0.05). Violence against property and people was found to be reduced in females, and increased in males with a history of emotional and sexual abuse, respectively (p < 0.05).

Conclusion: These preliminary findings highlight the significant impact of CT in PBD and suggest that gender may predict the risk for dysfunctional behaviors in PBD patients with CT. Future large scale, longitudinal, investigations focusing on fear processing and extinction may provide a deeper understanding of these gender differences, and their role in the course of BD.

Keywords: Bipolar disorder; Childhood trauma; Gender; Pediatric; Suicide; Violence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Aggression
  • Bipolar Disorder / psychology*
  • Child
  • Child Abuse / psychology*
  • Fear
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Physical Abuse / psychology
  • Sex Factors
  • Suicidal Ideation
  • Suicide / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires