Tests of a direct effect of childhood abuse on adult borderline personality disorder traits: A longitudinal discordant twin design

Marina A. Bornovalova, Brooke M. Huibregtse, Brian M. Hicks, Margaret Keyes, Matt McGue, William Iacono

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Scopus citations

Abstract

We used a longitudinal twin design to examine the causal association between sexual, emotional, and physical abuse in childhood (before age 18) and borderline personality disorder (BPD) traits at age 24 using a discordant twin design and biometric modeling. Additionally, we examined the mediating and moderating effects of symptoms of childhood externalizing and internalizing disorders on the link between childhood abuse and BPD traits. Although childhood abuse, BPD traits, and internalizing and externalizing symptoms were all correlated, the discordant twin analyses and biometric modeling showed little to no evidence that was consistent with a causal effect of childhood abuse on BPD traits. Instead, our results indicate that the association between childhood abuse and BPD traits stems from common genetic influences that, in some cases, also overlap with internalizing and externalizing disorders. These findings are inconsistent with the widely held assumption that childhood abuse causes BPD, and they suggest that BPD traits in adulthood are better accounted for by heritable vulnerabilities to internalizing and externalizing disorders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)180-194
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of abnormal psychology
Volume122
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 2013

Keywords

  • Behavioral genetics
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Childhood abuse
  • Co-twin control design
  • Externalizing traits
  • Internalizing traits.

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Tests of a direct effect of childhood abuse on adult borderline personality disorder traits: A longitudinal discordant twin design'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this