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Etiological features of borderline personality related characteristics in a birth cohort of 12-year-old children

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  31 January 2012

Daniel W. Belsky*
Affiliation:
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Duke University
Avshalom Caspi
Affiliation:
Duke University King's College London
Louise Arseneault
Affiliation:
King's College London
Wiebke Bleidorn
Affiliation:
Bielefeld University
Peter Fonagy
Affiliation:
University College London
Marianne Goodman
Affiliation:
Mt. Sinai School of Medicine James J. Peters VA Medical Center
Renate Houts
Affiliation:
Duke University
Terrie E. Moffitt
Affiliation:
Duke University King's College London
*
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Daniel W. Belsky, 2020 West Main Street, Suite 201, Durham, NC 27708; E-mail: dbelsky@unc.edu.

Abstract

It has been reported that borderline personality related characteristics can be observed in children, and that these characteristics are associated with increased risk for the development of borderline personality disorder. It is not clear whether borderline personality related characteristics in children share etiological features with adult borderline personality disorder. We investigated the etiology of borderline personality related characteristics in a longitudinal cohort study of 1,116 pairs of same-sex twins followed from birth through age 12 years. Borderline personality related characteristics measured at age 12 years were highly heritable, were more common in children who had exhibited poor cognitive function, impulsivity, and more behavioral and emotional problems at age 5 years, and co-occurred with symptoms of conduct disorder, depression, anxiety, and psychosis. Exposure to harsh treatment in the family environment through age 10 years predicted borderline personality related characteristics at age 12 years. This association showed evidence of environmental mediation and was stronger among children with a family history of psychiatric illness, consistent with diathesis–stress models of borderline etiology. Results indicate that borderline personality related characteristics in children share etiological features with borderline personality disorder in adults and suggest that inherited and environmental risk factors make independent and interactive contributions to borderline etiology.

Type
Regular Articles
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2012

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