Traditional methods used to asses genetic effects, such as twins, adoption and family studies, have demonstrated the role genetic vulnerability factors in the etiology of major psychiatric diseases such as affective disorders and schizophrenia. It remains however impossible, using these methods, to specify the genetic variables involved and the exact mode of transmission of these diseases. New genetic approaches in psychiatry include the use of DNA markers in sophisticated strategies to examine families and populations. Genetic linkage (in families) and allelic association (in unrelated subjects) are the most frequent techniques applied searching for genes in psychiatric diseases. Advances in these methods have permitted their application to complex diseases in which the mode of genetic transmission is unknown. Affective disorders and, in particular, bipolar affective disorder (BPAD) have been examined in many molecular genetic studies which have covered a large part of the genome, specific hypotheses such as mutations have also, been studied. Most recent studies indicate that several chromosomal regions may be involved in the aetiology of affective disorders. Large multi-centre and multi-disciplinary projects are currently underway in Europe and in the US and hopefully will improve our understanding of the genetic factors involved in affective disorders. In parallel to these new developments in molecular genetics, the classical genetic epidemiology, represented by twin, adoption and family studies, have been improved, providing validated models to test the gene-environment interactions.