Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is characterized by a heterogeneous clinical phenotype that emerges from interactions among genetic, biological, neurodevelopmental, and psychosocial factors. In the present family study, we evaluated the familial aggregation of key clinical, personality, and neurodevelopmental phenotypes in probands with BPD (n = 103), first-degree biological relatives (n = 74; 43% without a history of psychiatric disorder), and non-psychiatric controls (n = 99).
Participants were assessed on DSM-IV psychiatric diagnoses, symptom dimensions of emotion dysregulation and impulsivity, ‘big five’ personality traits, and neurodevelopmental characteristics, as part of a larger family study on neurocognitive, biological, and genetic markers in BPD.
The most common psychiatric diagnoses in probands and relatives were major depression, substance use disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorders, and avoidant personality disorder. There was evidence of familial aggregation for specific dimensions of impulsivity and emotion dysregulation, and the big five traits neuroticism and conscientiousness. Both probands and relatives reported an elevated neurodevelopmental history of attentional and behavioral difficulties.
These results support the validity of negative affectivity- and impulse-spectrum phenotypes associated with BPD and its familial risk. Further research is needed to investigate the aggregation of neurocognitive, neural and genetic factors in families with BPD and their associations with core phenotypes underlying the disorder.