Previous studies have indicated that the psychopathological dimensions of borderline personality disorder (BPD) are influenced by a unitary liability factor. However, to our knowledge, the underlying etiological nature of the individual criteria for BPD as defined by the DSM-IV has not been explored.
To determine the structure of genetic and environmental risk factors for the symptoms of BPD.
Design, Setting, and Participants
Multivariate twin study with BPD criteria assessed by personal interview within a general community setting. Participants included 2794 young adults from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health Twin Panel.
Main Outcomes and Measures
The 9 criteria for BPD assessed by the Structured Interview for DSM-IV Personality.
A common pathway model dominated by 1 highly heritable (55%) general BPD factor that strongly influenced all 9 BPD criteria (standardized path coefficients, 0.53-0.79) fit the data best. The model also included 2 additional common liability factors, mainly influencing criteria reflecting the affective and interpersonal dimensions. Both of these were mostly influenced by environmental liability factors (heritability, 29.3% and 2.2%). With 1 exception (criterion 2, unstable and intense relationships), the specific criteria were strongly influenced by environmental factors. Five of the 9 criterion-specific genetic effects were either 0 or negligible.
Conclusions and Relevance
These results indicate that most of the genetic effects on the individual BPD criteria derive from 1 highly heritable general BPD factor, whereas the environmental influences were mostly criterion specific.