Despite strong evidence provided by genetic epidemiology of genetic involvement in the aetiology of bipolar and unipolar affective disorders, the exact nature of the predisposing gene(s) is still being investigated through linkage and association studies. The interaction of susceptibility genes and environmental factors in these diseases is also of fundamental importance and requires proper investigation. Interesting theories have recently been proposed examining the possible role of various chromosomal regions, candidate genes and mutations in affective disorders. Reliable multicentre-based methodology is currently being employed to examine these theories, with attention given to statistical analysis and the statistical power of the sample. The present article describes the European Collaborative Project on Affective Disorders (ECPAD) 'Interactions between genetic and psychosocial vulnerability factors', involving 15 European centres. A description is given of the association and family samples collected for the project and also the methodology used to analyse interactions in the gene-psychosocial environment. This material provides a powerful tool in the search for susceptibility genes in affective disorders and takes into account non-genetic aetiological factors. Psychiatr Genet 8:197-205 (C) 1998 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.