Association between 5-HTTLPR and borderline personality disorder traits among youth

Benjamin L. Hankin, Andrea L. Barrocas, Jessica Jenness, Caroline W. Oppenheimer, Lisa S. Badanes, John R.Z. Abela, Jami Young, Andrew Smolen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study provides the first genetic association examination of borderline personality disorder (BPD) traits in children and adolescents (ages 9-15) using two independent samples of youth recruited from the general community. We tested the a priori hypothesis that the serotonin transporter promoter gene (5-HTTLPR) would relate specifically to BPD traits in youth. This association was hypothesized based on prior genetic association research with BPD adults and theory positing that emotion dysregulation may be a core risk process contributing to BPD. Youth provided DNA via buccal cells. Both youth and a parent completed self-report measures assessing youth's BPD traits and depressive symptoms. Results from both Study 1 (N = 242) and an independent replication sample of Study 2 (N = 144) showed that carriers of the short allele of 5-HTTLPR exhibited the highest levels of BPD traits. This relation was observed even after controlling for the substantial co-occurrence between BPD traits and depressive symptoms. This specific association between 5-HTTLPR and BPD traits among youth supports previous genetic associations with adults diagnosed with BPD and provides preliminary support for a developmental extension of etiological risk for BPD among youth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberArticle 6
JournalFrontiers in Psychiatry
Issue numberMAR
StatePublished - 2011


  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Molecular genetics
  • Serotonin
  • Youth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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