A longitudinal twin study of borderline and antisocial personality disorder traits in early to middle adulthood

Psychol Med. 2015 Oct;45(14):3121-31. doi: 10.1017/S0033291715001117. Epub 2015 Jun 8.


Background: Antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) and borderline personality disorder (BPD) share genetic and environmental risk factors. Little is known about the temporal stability of these etiological factors in adulthood.

Method: DSM-IV criteria for ASPD and BPD were assessed using structured interviews in 2282 Norwegian twins in early adulthood and again approximately 10 years later. Longitudinal biometric models were used to analyze the number of endorsed criteria.

Results: The mean criterion count for ASPD and BPD decreased 40% and 28%, respectively, from early to middle adulthood. Rank-order stability was 0.58 for ASPD and 0.45 for BPD. The best-fitting longitudinal twin model included only genetic and individual-specific environmental factors. Genetic effects, both those shared by ASPD and BPD, and those specific to each disorder remained completely stable. The unique environmental effects, however, changed substantially, with a correlation across time of 0.19 for the shared effects, and 0.39 and 0.15, respectively, for those specific to ASPD and BPD. Genetic effects accounted for 71% and 72% of the stability over time for ASPD and BPD, respectively. The genetic and environmental correlations between ASPD and BPD were 0.73, and 0.43, respectively, at both time points.

Conclusion: ASPD and BPD traits were moderately stable from early to middle adulthood, mostly due to genetic risk factors which did not change over the 10-year assessment period. Environmental risk factors were mostly transient, and appear to be the main source of phenotypic change. Genetic liability factors were, to a large extent, shared by ASPD and BPD.

Keywords: Antisocial personality disorder; borderline personality disorder; genetics; longitudinal studies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Twin Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder / genetics*
  • Biometry
  • Borderline Personality Disorder / genetics*
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
  • Diseases in Twins / genetics*
  • Female
  • Gene-Environment Interaction*
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Norway
  • Phenotype
  • Risk Factors
  • Young Adult