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 also collaborate separately, the synergy among these investigators and their studies under the CIP umbrella accelerate progress in Intergenerational Psychiatry.

Ongoing Research Projects

  • The Boricua Youth Study
  • The High Risk Depression Study
  • The Healthy Minds Study
  • The Cash Transfer Study (PI: Duarte, Cristiane)
  • Preteen Risk Study (PIs: Tamara Sussman, PhD and Lillian Polanco-Roman, PhD)
  • Prenatal Air Pollution Study (PI: Claudia Lugo-Candelas, PhD)
  • Prenatal Obesity and Childhood Impulsivity Study (PI: Claudia Lugo-Candelas, PhD)
  • MINDS-UP: Mindfulness-Based Substance Use Prevention Program (PI: David Saunders MD, PhD)

Conceptual Framework

Psychiatric disorders often cascade across families, compounding genetic and environmental risk factors to succeeding generations. Knowledge about psychiatric disorders in family members across generations is a powerful method for understanding the mechanisms of transmission of mental illness, its environmental context, and for clinical interventions for prevention and treatment. Due to the strong evidence of 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, and the situations that foster resilience. Comparisons between generations of biological and environmental mechanisms related to the development of psychiatric impairment seem to be an important method for detecting vulnerability and for providing early interventions for preventing and treating psychiatric illness.

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

Current Grants

  • 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.