Staging models are used routinely in general medicine for potentially serious or chronic physical disorders such as diabetes, arthritis and cancers, describing the links between biomarkers, clinical phenotypes and disease extension, and promoting a personalised or stratified medicine approach to treatment planning. Clinical staging involves a detailed description of where an individual exists on a continuum of disorder progression from stage 0 (an at-risk or latency stage) through to stage IV (late or end-stage disease). The approach is popular owing to its clinical utility and is increasingly being applied in psychiatry. The concept offers an informed approach to research and the active promotion of indicated prevention and early intervention strategies. We suggest that for young persons with emerging bipolar disorder, such transdiagnostic staging models could provide a framework that better reflects the developmental psychopathology and matches the complex longitudinal inter-relationships between subsyndromal and syndromal mood, psychotic and other disorders.