What We Do

Columbia Psychiatry has been a leader in intergenerational studies. The Boricua Youth Study in the Department of Psychiatry is a longitudinal study of three generations of Puerto Rican children living in two low-income contexts. The High-Risk Depression Study is now in its fourth generation. Plus, studies determining the effect of maternal depression and trauma on offspring development and focused on intergenerational processes are in course in Canada and Brazil. While investigators collaborate informally among themselves, the synergies among these investigators and their studies under the CIP umbrella will accelerate progress in Intergenerational Psychiatry.

Resources and research activities that are part of CIP:

Study Cohorts

The Boricua Youth Study

The High Risk Depression Study

The Healthy Minds Study

Duarte, C. S., Canino, G., Alegria, M, Ramos-Olazagasti, Vila, D., Miranda, P., Ramajattan, V., Alvarez, K., Musa, G. J., Elkington, K. E., Wall, M., Lapatin, S., Bird, H., Developmental Psychopathology & Ethnicity: I. The Young Adulthood Assessment of the Boricua Youth Study. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. In press.

Weissman MM, Berry OO, Warner V, Gameroff MJ, Skipper J, Talati A, Piloswky DJ, Wickramaratne P. A 30-Year Study of 3 Generations at High Risk and Low Risk for Depression. JAMA Psychiatry. 2016;73(9):970-977.

Conceptional Framework

Psychiatric disorders often cascade across families, with compounding genetic and environmental risk factors flowing to succeeding generations. Knowledge about psychiatric disorders in family members across generations is a powerful method for understanding mechanisms of transmission of mental illness, its environmental context, and for clinical interventions both as prevention and treatment. Because of the strong transmission of most psychiatric disorders between generations, the study of one generation can provide valuable information about the early signs, onset, and circumstances of an illness in the next generation, as well as the situations that foster resilience. Comparisons, between generations, of biological and environmental mechanisms related to the development of psychiatric impairment promises to be an important method for detecting vulnerability and for providing early interventions for the prevention and treatment of psychiatric illness.

Our interest in intergenerational psychiatry encompasses a wide variety of fields that together utilize an interdisciplinary approach to the study the transmission of vulnerability and resilience to mental illness between generations, and to better develop effective interventions and preventive strategies to interrupt and avert this transmission.



  • UH3OD023328 - Breaking the cycle of intergenerational disadvantage: Neurodevelopment among Puerto Rican children
  • R01MH121070 - Maternal adversity, inflammation, and neurodevelopment: how intergenerational processes perpetuate disadvantage in a low-resource setting
  • R01ES032870 - Prenatal air pollution and neurodevelopment: a longitudinal neuroimaging study of mechanisms and early risk for ADHD in Puerto Rican children
  • R01MH128937 - Mental health and Bolsa Familia: A mechanistically focused clinical trial of a cash transfer intervention on child brain, behavior, and mental health.
  • R01DA054722 - Prenatal Cannabis: A fetal neuroimaging study of neurodevelopment
  • K08MH117452 - A longitudinal study of prenatal maternal obesity and the fetal origins of impulsivity in Puerto Rican children
  • K08DA049913 - A longitudinal study of Puerto Rican children and the impact of adverse childhood experiences on the development of cognitive control and risk for substance use disorders
  • K01MH117443 - Mothers' childhoods and the intergenerational transmission of mental health risk in the context of adversity
  • Use Prevention (Mind-UP) Program: Feasibility, Neural Mechanisms, and Preliminary Efficacy.

Recent submissions

  • R01HD109007 - Structural racism and discrimination, prenatal maternal sleep, and offspring neurodevelopment: Intergenerational legacies among Puerto Rican Children
  • Does Cash Transfer during Pregnancy and Early Infancy Decrease Socio-Economic Disparities in Neurodevelopment among Puerto Rican Children?
  • R01HL160027 - Social contextual factors, epigenomics and cardiometabolic health