Personality and Psychopathology: Genetic Perspectives

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Genetic factors exert an important influence on adult personality traits, accounting for anywhere between 30% and 60% of the variance. Heredity is also important for most forms of psychopathology and plays a major role in several theories that relate personality to psychopathology. Despite this, there has been surprisingly little multivariate genetic research reported on joint analyses of personality and psychopathology. The small amount of available data suggests that genes may account for over 50% of the observed correlation between neuroticism and state symptoms of anxiety and depression. The mechanisms behind such strong genetic correlations are crucial for understanding the causal relationship between a personality trait and a disorder because genetically influenced biological systems may operate as exogenous “third-party” factors that are responsible for what appear to be phenotypic cause–effect relationships. We illustrate how recent analytical advances in behavior genetics can use multivariate family data to address questions about the causal role of personality in psychopathology.

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