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Although borderline personality disorder (BPD) traits decline from adolescence to adulthood, comorbid psychopathology such as symptoms of major depressive disorder (MDD), alcohol use disorder (AUD), and drug use disorders (DUDs) likely disrupt this normative decline. Using a longitudinal sample of female twins (N = 1,763), we examined if levels of BPD traits were correlated with changes in MDD, AUD, and DUD symptoms from ages 14 to 24. A parallel process biometric latent growth model examined the contributions of genetic and environmental factors to the relationships between developmental components of these phenotypes. Higher BPD trait levels predicted a greater rate of increase in AUD and DUD symptoms, and higher AUD and DUD symptoms predicted a slower rate of decline of BPD traits from ages 14 to 24. Common genetic influences accounted for the associations between BPD traits and each disorder, as well as the interrelationships of AUD and DUD symptoms. Both genetic and nonshared environmental influences accounted for the correlated levels between BPD traits and MDD symptoms, but solely environmental influences accounted for the correlated changes between the two over time. Results indicate that higher levels of BPD traits may contribute to an earlier onset and faster escalation of AUD and DUD symptoms, and substance use problems slow the normative decline in BPD traits. Overall, our data suggests that primarily genetic influences contribute to the comorbidity between BPD features and substance use disorder symptoms. We discuss our data in the context of two major theories of developmental psychopathology and comorbidity.

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Development and Psychopathology, v. 30, issue 1, p. 49-65

This article has been published in a revised form in Development and Psychopathology, This version is free to view and download for private research and study only. Not for re-distribution or re-use. © Cambridge University Press 2017.

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