Almost half of partners of people with schizophrenia also suffer from mental disorders

A new study suggests that nearly half of parents who have children with a parent with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, themselves are burdened with psychological problems. It can affect family life and children. This is shown by the research result of the large Danish psychiatry project iPSYCH.

We usually choose a partner who looks like us in terms of social status, education and to some extent also income. Research has already established it. A new study now shows that almost half of parents who have children with a partner who has schizophrenia or bipolar disorder themselves meet the criteria for a mental disorder. In comparison, this represents 18 percent for parents in the control group.

The findings come from the Danish High Risk and Resilience Study, which is part of iPSYCH. A total of 872 parents participated in the study. Parental couples were selected such that one of the parents was listed in the National Registry of Patients with a Diagnosis of Schizophrenia or Bipolar Disorder. Their partner and the parents in the control group were not recorded with these disorders. At the time of the study, all parents had a seven-year-old child.

Met the criteria themselves

“In the Danish registers we used, each child had only one parent registered with a mental disorder, but the diagnostic interview carried out as part of our study showed that almost half of the partners also met the criteria. of such trouble. In addition, the partners had a lower functional level compared to the control group, ”explains doctor and psychologist Aja Neergaard Greve, who is behind the study.

“The most common diagnosis among partners was depression. We were surprised that six percent of partners of people with schizophrenia also met diagnostic criteria for schizophrenia themselves. In the control group, this was that’s one percent, ”she said.

Care often depends on the other person

According to the researcher, the findings – which were published in the scientific journal Schizophrenia Bulletin – indicate possible risk factors for children growing up in families with a parent with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

“When one parent has a serious mental disorder, the care of the child will often depend more on the other parent, who may also have a lot of their attention directed to the sick parent. If the parent who we thought was healthy and healthy – also functioning in some cases has a mental disorder, and / or has a lower functional level and is emotionally and practically burdened by the general family situation, then this can have an impact. importance for the well-being of the whole family ”, explains Aja Neergaard Greve.

Already at increased risk

Children born to parents with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder have an increased risk of developing mental disorders themselves – in fact, familial risk is the highest known risk factor for the subsequent development of these disorders. If both parents have a mental disorder, the overall risk to the children increases.

“This increased risk is both genetic and environmental. Cognitive functions such as intelligence are for example hereditary, but if the parents have cognitive difficulties there will also be an effect on the environment in which the child grows up. if the parents therefore do not have the possibility to create good stable and predictable routines or to sufficiently stimulate the child ”, she says and continues:

“Some of these families are particularly vulnerable and grapple with more than one problem and therefore need additional help and support. Our study suggests that there is a need to pay more attention to some. families where one or both parents suffer from a mental disorder Specialized and targeted efforts are needed for families already early in the child’s life “, explains Aja Neergaard Greve.

The researchers will follow the families in the study through to the child’s education and hope to learn more about how children develop, as well as the factors that are most important for the well-being of children. families.

Context of the results

The Danish High Risk and Resilience Study is a nationally representative group of 522 children born to parents with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or parents in the control group. The children and both biological parents of the child were interviewed and examined. The results of this study come from data from 872 parents.


Greve AN, Uher R, Als TD, et al. A national cohort study of non-random mating in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Schizophrenia Bulletin. 2021; (sbab021). doi: 10.1093 / schbul / sbab021

This article has been republished from material provided by Aarhus University. Note: Material may have been edited for length and content. For more information, please contact the cited source.

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