We review the literature on the relationship between somatoform disorders and personality disorders, which reveals that approximately two in three patients with a somatoform disorder meet criteria for a personality disorder. We suggest that the most clinically salient problems presented by patients with somatoform disorders reflect dysfunctions of personality. We also examine research on the childhood antecedents of somatoform disorders and argue for reconsidering somatoform disorders, along with personality disorders, as disorders of development. Our argument involves rejecting the traditional approach to classification in favour of a prototypical polythetic view. We also suggest that the perspectives of developmental psychopathology and life-span research offer more to this field than the search for biological substrates or principles based on descriptive psychopathology, which to date have yielded meagre research findings with limited clinical utility.