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Q. I am in the process of adopting two children. Their biological mother is Schizophrenic, bipolar and uses illegal drugs. They were removed because she had voices telling her to kill the youngest child. We do not have information available if there was a family history of Schizophrenia or Bipolar other than her. The children are 4 and 6 years old. I want to be their mother but I am very afraid of this disease. What are their chances of having this disease?

A. Among children who have a parent with schizophrenia, (I am not sure about bipolar disorder) they have approximately a 13 percent higher chance of having the disorder compared to children who do not have a parent with schizophrenia. While having a parent with one of these disorders may increase the chances of their children becoming suffers, it is still relatively unlikely that they will be diagnosed at all.

The likelihood of them developing the disease can depend on a great many factors. For example, it is known that some individuals are predisposed to these diseases because they have biological relatives who were diagnosed with these diseases. Those who are predisposed to such disorders usually need a trigger to set these diseases in motion. Drug use, for example, in an individual who is predisposed to schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, may be enough to trigger a psychotic episode leading to schizophrenia. This predisposition makes these individuals more susceptible to getting schizophrenia or bipolar disorder but there is certainly no guarantee or way to predict whether or not an individual will suffer from a future illness.

Rescuing the children you speak about from the dangerous and traumatic situation they have experienced under the care of their current mother can seriously diminish and maybe eliminate their chances of future mental health problems. Being loved and cared for by a mature, nurturing, stable and healthy mother and family has the protective function and power to increase the probability that the children you wish to adopt are mentally healthy, even if their mother suffered with the aforesaid diseases. The power of a safe, loving and caring family for children cannot be underestimated. I hope this answer can assist you in your decision making. I wish you and the children you are considering for adoption the best of luck.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Apr 2007

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2007). Should I adopt children whose mother is schizophrenia and bipolar?. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 20, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2007/04/30/should-i-adopt-children-whose-mother-is-schizophrenia-and-bipolar/

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