Bipolar disorder is a serious mental disorder, affecting anywhere from 2 to 4 percent of Americans. Though research has indicated that this disorder can be devastating for patients, less is known about how the disorder impacts family members. There is no research that has considered impacts on family members adjusting to college. The purpose of the current study was to determine the extent to which having a family member with bipolar disorder impacts adjustment to college, as well as factors that might account for worse functioning. Two groups were recruited: students with a bipolar family member (n = 25) and students with no family history of the disorder (n = 50). Participants were interviewed regarding their own histories of a mood disorder, as well as mood disorder histories in their immediate families. They then completed surveys assessing adjustment to college, functioning, caregiving burden, parental relationship, and attachment style. Students with a family history of bipolar disorder had significantly lower social adjustment scores, lower personal-emotional adjustment scores, and lower financial functioning scores than students without this history. Lower scores were found even after controlling for psychopathology. Avoidant attachment behaviors, anxious attachment behaviors, and aspects of the paternal relationship were identified as potential mediators. Caregiving burden was identified as a partial mediator. Implications for families and educational institutions are discussed.
A positive sibling relationship may protect individuals against poor developmental outcomes associated with psychological maltreatment. The current study assessed the moderating role of a positive sibling relationship in childhood and adulthood on associations between early psychological maltreatment and adult attachment anxiety and avoidance. College students (N = 270) completed self-report measures of psychological maltreatment, sibling relationship quality, and adult attachment. Psychological maltreatment in childhood was associated with an increase in attachment anxiety and avoidance, while a positive sibling relationship was related to a decrease in levels of attachment anxiety and avoidance. As predicted, a positive childhood sibling relationship mitigated the negative effects of psychological neglect in childhood on attachment. Similarly, a positive sibling relationship decreased the levels of attachment anxiety associated with isolation in childhood.