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Genetic and environmental influences on the codevelopment among borderline personality disorder traits, major depression symptoms, and substance use disorder symptoms from adolescence to young adulthood

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 April 2017

Marina A. Bornovalova*
University of South Florida
Brad Verhulst
Virginia Commonwealth University
Troy Webber
University of South Florida
Matt McGue
University of Minnesota
William G. Iacono
University of Minnesota
Brian M. Hicks
University of Michigan
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Marina A. Bornovalova, Department of Psychology, University of South Florida, 4202 East Fowler Avenue, PCD4118G, Tampa, FL 33620; E-mail:


Although borderline personality disorder (BPD) traits decline from adolescence to adulthood, comorbid psychopathology such as symptoms of major depressive disorder (MDD), alcohol use disorder (AUD), and drug use disorders (DUDs) likely disrupt this normative decline. Using a longitudinal sample of female twins (N = 1,763), we examined if levels of BPD traits were correlated with changes in MDD, AUD, and DUD symptoms from ages 14 to 24. A parallel process biometric latent growth model examined the contributions of genetic and environmental factors to the relationships between developmental components of these phenotypes. Higher BPD trait levels predicted a greater rate of increase in AUD and DUD symptoms, and higher AUD and DUD symptoms predicted a slower rate of decline of BPD traits from ages 14 to 24. Common genetic influences accounted for the associations between BPD traits and each disorder, as well as the interrelationships of AUD and DUD symptoms. Both genetic and nonshared environmental influences accounted for the correlated levels between BPD traits and MDD symptoms, but solely environmental influences accounted for the correlated changes between the two over time. Results indicate that higher levels of BPD traits may contribute to an earlier onset and faster escalation of AUD and DUD symptoms, and substance use problems slow the normative decline in BPD traits. Overall, our data suggests that primarily genetic influences contribute to the comorbidity between BPD features and substance use disorder symptoms. We discuss our data in the context of two major theories of developmental psychopathology and comorbidity.

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Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2017 

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Data for this project were collected at the University of Minnesota. This work was supported by National Institute of Drug Abuse Grants DA05147, DA034606, DA036216, and P30DA028807 and National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Grants AA09367 and AA015621. Marina A. Bornovalova was supported by National Institute of Drug Abuse Grant DA032582, Brad Verhulst was supported by National Institute of Drug Abuse Grants DA026119 and DA018637, and Brian M. Hicks was supported by Grant DA025868. All authors had full access to all of the data in the study and take responsibility for the integrity of the data and accuracy of the data analysis. No conflict of interest exists for any of the authors.


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