There is a groundswell of books appearing on the market that refute the basis of the bipolar diagnosis in childhood. Here's an interview in the Huffington Post with Stuart Kaplan, MD, author of Your Child Does Not Have Bipolar Disorder: How Bad Science and Good Public Relations Created the Disorder.
There is, indeed, a psychiatric diagnosis called childhood bipolar disorder that used to be reserved for the rare child, but that diagnosis has gotten way out of hand in the past two decades, leading to medicating this "disorder" in growing numbers of children under eighteen. Now, everybody's child is that "rare" child. I can hear parents complaining, sure, it's easy for you to say this, just try living with MY child and see what you think. I think I can speak from experience as a parent and having to struggle with mind-blowing odd behavior in my adult child. Years ago, my elementary school aged middle child drove me to seek out a psychologist, who was very helpful in helping me to understand him. I changed my attitude and he changed his behavior. It's a two way street. My youngest was inexplicably termed ADD by a psychologist who had never even seen him in action. Parents of young children are understandably under stress and sometimes don't feel they have the luxury of taking a step back from the situation. Even in the 1990s, ADHD and ADD was the diagnosis du jour. Everybody seemed to have it.
Its one thing to be given the label, but it's another thing to know what to do about it. And that's where most of us fall down, knowing what to do about it. Science hasn't been much help. More emphasis is needed on family therapy in learning how to deal with the surprising ways that children can react to their home environment. Especially that "rare" child.