Various aspects of the relationship between cognitive impairment and bipolar disorder are not clear yet. This study examines cognitive and educational functioning prospectively in offspring at familial risk for bipolar disorder, in order to improve our understanding of the association between cognitive functioning and psychopathology. Bipolar offspring (N = 92) from the prospective Dutch bipolar offspring study were evaluated at adolescence and adulthood for IQ estimate, educational achievement and development of any psychiatric disorder. The main outcome was IQ estimate after 12 years of follow-up (offspring mean age 28 years). Generalized estimating equation (GEE) analyses showed that any lifetime DSM-IV axis I diagnosis was related to a lower cognitive outcome at adulthood as compared to unaffected bipolar offspring. No specific association was found for type of diagnosis. Early onset psychopathology (diagnosis at or before age 15 years) was significantly related to lower IQ estimate at adulthood, indicating a sensitive period for neurocognitive development.