Objectives: To examine the effect of parental psychiatric diagnosis on the risk of psychiatric disorder in their offspring and to determine mediators and independent predictors of psychiatric disorder in offspring.
Method: The sample consisted of 145 offspring (between the ages of 6 and 24 years, who were directly interviewed) of probands with early-onset (before age 30 years) major depressive disorder (MDD) without panic, panic disorder with and without major depression, and a normal, never psychiatrically ill control group who were part of a large study conducted to determine the relationship between panic disorder and major depression.
Results: The risk for offspring MDD was increased by proband recurrent early-onset MDD and coparent alcohol abuse. Chaotic family environment was the only independent predictor of dysthymia. The risk for offspring "any anxiety" disorder was increased by proband recurrent early-onset MDD and coparent impaired functioning. The association between MDD in proband and "panic spectrum" disorder in offspring was accounted for by chaotic family environment.
Conclusion: Recurrent parental MDD has consistently been shown to be a strong risk factor for offspring MDD. Family environment plays an important role in low-level anxiety symptoms and dysthymia. Clinicians treating adults should be alert to risk factors for their offspring and to appropriate targets for early intervention.