Original Research ARTICLE

Front. Psychiatry, 01 March 2011 | http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2011.00006

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

Benjamin L. Hankin1*, Andrea L. Barrocas1, Jessica Jenness1, Caroline W. Oppenheimer1, Lisa S. Badanes1, John R. Z. Abela2, Jami Young2 and Andrew Smolen3
  • 1 Department of Psychology, University of Denver, Denver, CO, USA
  • 2 Department of Psychology, Evolution and Human Behavior, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, USA
  • 3 Institute for Behavior Genetics, University of Colorado-Boulder, Boulder, CO, USA

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.

Keywords: youth, borderline personality disorder, molecular genetics, serotonin

Citation: Hankin BL, Barrocas AL, Jenness J, Oppenheimer CW, Badanes LS, Abela JRZ, Young J and Smolen A (2011) Association between 5-HTTLPR and borderline personality disorder traits among youth. Front. Psychiatry 2:6. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2011.00006

Received: 07 July 2010; Accepted: 16 February 2011;
Published online: 01 March 2011.

Edited by:

William Copeland, Duke University, USA

Reviewed by:

Robert R. Althoff, University of Vermont, USA
William Copeland, Duke University, USA
Charles Richard Jonassaint, Johns Hopkins University, USA

Copyright: © 2011 Hankin, Barrocas, Jenness, Oppenheimer, Badanes, Abela, Young and Smolen. This is an open-access article subject to an exclusive license agreement between the authors and Frontiers Media SA, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original authors and source are credited.

*Correspondence: Benjamin L. Hankin, Department of Psychology, University of Denver, 2155 South Race Street, Denver, CO 80208, USA. e-mail: ben.hankin@psy.du.edu