I’m Not Being Critical, You’re Just Too Sensitive: Pediatric Bipolar Disorder and Families

Tina D. Du Rocher Schudlich, Chase Ochrach, Eric A. Youngstrom, Jennifer K. Youngstrom, Robert L. Findling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The present study examines the relationship between Perceived Criticism (PC) and Sensitivity to Criticism (SC) in youth with Bipolar Spectrum Disorder (BPSD), their symptomatic experiences, and family functioning. We hypothesized that findings for youth would be consistent with findings for adults indicating that PC and SC would be associated with a worse clinical presentation, and that associations between family criticism and sensitivity and youth symptoms would be stronger for youth with BPSD than with other clinical diagnoses. We examined 828 youths ages 4–18 years (M = 10.9, SD = 3.4) and their caregivers from diverse ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds using the Longitudinal Expert evaluation of All Data (LEAD) diagnoses (Spitzer, Comprehensive Psychiatry, 24, 399-411 1983), the parent-reported General Behavior Inventory (Youngstrom et al., Psychological Assessment, 13, 267–276 2001), The Perceived Criticism Scale (Hooley and Teasdale, Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 98, 229–235 1989), and the Family Assessment Device (Epstein et al., Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 9, 171–180 1983). We found significant positive association between parent reports of youth criticalness and more severe manic and depression symptoms, greater mood lability, higher suicidality, and worse overall functioning. Youth with BPSD were significantly more critical and had higher SC than youth without BPSD. Interactions between BPSD and family criticalness and sensitivity were found in their links with youth symptoms. Negative associations between criticism and sensitivity and youth global family functioning were significant only for youth with BPSD. The positive association between criticism and youth mood lability was significant only for youth with BPSD. Our findings suggest that family factors and interactional patterns impact and are influenced by functioning in youth with BPSD and that family-based treatments should be considered routinely with these youth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)84-94
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Bipolar disorder
  • Children and adolescents
  • Family
  • Perceived criticism
  • Sensitivity to criticism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology


Dive into the research topics of 'I’m Not Being Critical, You’re Just Too Sensitive: Pediatric Bipolar Disorder and Families'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this