By Liane J. Leedom, M.D.
Imagine loving someone, having children with that person, and then realizing that you’ve gotten yourself involved in an abusive relationship.
Imagine suspecting that your partner, the mother or father of your children, has a personality disorder — and then hearing that personality disorders are highly genetic.
If you’re a therapist, imagine this person is your client. What do you do?
I believe we can and should intervene in the lives of children who are at risk of developing externalizing disorders, such as ADHD, conduct disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, and substance use disorders. If we do, we may be able to prevent these children from developing personality disorders as adults.
When we study large numbers of people affected by externalizing disorders, and personality disorders in particular, we see that about 50 percent of the risk for these disorders is genetic. That means the environment children grow up in, including their interactions with parents, siblings and peers, also strongly influences the development of disorder.