Moderators of Treatment for Pediatric Bipolar Spectrum Disorders

Michelle E. Roley-Roberts, Mary A. Fristad

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Objective: We review the current limited research on pediatric bipolar spectrum disorder (BPSD) treatment moderators. Method: Four pharmacotherapy and nine psychotherapy moderator studies in youth with pediatric BPSD is summarized. Results: Two pharmacotherapy studies suggest that younger children and those with more aggression fare worse. Regarding preferential outcomes, one study found that older youth respond better to lithium than younger youth; all youth, regardless of age, respond similarly to valproate. One study found non-obese youth and those with comorbid attention deficit hyper-activity disorder respond better to risperidone than lithium. Results are mixed for psychosis and disruptive behavior disorders on risperidone compared to divalproex. Tentatively, youth with generalized anxiety are more likely to respond to valproate while youth with panic preferentially respond to lithium. Psychotherapy findings from two studies suggest that sex, age, race, baseline mania, and past-month suicidal ideation/non-suicidal self-injury do not moderate outcomes. Although not replicated, higher baseline inflammatory markers are associated with greater decreases in depressive symptoms; baseline higher self-esteem and comorbid attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are associated with steeper decreases in (hypo)manic symptoms. Conclusions: Findings are mixed on the role of baseline mood severity, other comorbid disorders, parental depression, family income, and expressed emotion in moderating treatment outcomes. Replication of these possible moderators is needed for both pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy interventions before conclusive results can be determined. Examination of larger samples of youth with BPSD and longer duration follow-up are needed to clarify meaningful treatment moderators.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)464-477
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology


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