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Groundbreaking Study Reveals the Complexity of Intergenerational Transmission of Psychiatric Conditions

In a groundbreaking Swedish cohort study involving 2,947,703 participants, researchers have unveiled intricate details about the intergenerational transmission of psychiatric conditions and its impact on a wide range of psychiatric, behavioral, and psychosocial outcomes in offspring.

General Psychopathology Factor:

  • Children with parents scoring 1 standard deviation above the mean on the general psychopathology factor had 8% to 40% higher odds of 31 different outcomes.
  • The general psychopathology factor was significantly associated with all 31 offspring outcomes, indicating a broad vulnerability to mental health-related phenotypes.
  • The associations were largely attributed to the general psychopathology factor, suggesting a comprehensive consideration of parental psychiatric conditions, regardless of type, for estimating child prognosis.

Specific Psychopathology Factors:

  • Specific psychotic factors in parents are primarily associated with psychotic-like outcomes in offspring, indicating a specificity in the transmission of psychotic disorders.
  • Specific internalizing factors linked to internalizing and neurodevelopmental outcomes in offspring, emphasizing within-spectrum associations.
  • Specific externalizing factors are associated with both within-spectrum and some across-spectra outcomes in offspring, highlighting the complexity of transmission pathways.


  • Mental health professionals working with adult patients exhibiting multiple psychiatric conditions should consider comprehensive screening and monitoring of their offspring.
  • Professionals dealing with children may benefit from considering the total number of parental psychiatric conditions, irrespective of type when forecasting a child’s mental health and social functions.


  • Associations may be overestimated due to potential outcome misclassification.
  • Generalizability might be limited to parents receiving inpatient or outpatient treatment.
  • The study does not explore the mechanism of intergenerational transmission comprehensively.

This study provides a comprehensive understanding of the interplay between general and specific psychopathology factors in parents and their profound impact on the mental health and well-being of their offspring. The findings underscore the need for a nuanced and holistic approach in assessing and addressing the intergenerational transmission of psychiatric conditions.

Credit: JAMA Network Open, Mengping Zhou