Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Jenny Macfie

Committee Members

Jennifer Bolden, L. Christian Elledge, Heidi Stolz


Maternal borderline personality disorder (BPD) and difficult child temperament have individually been associated with reduced quality of mother-child interactions. The current study examined synchrony (a dyadic construct measuring quality of interaction) during a coded observational task in a sample of mothers with BPD and their young children ages 4-7 (n = 36) compared to normative comparisons (n = 34). These mothers’ self-reported borderline features were also used to examine dyad synchrony across the sample as a whole. We also examined the association between child temperament and synchrony as well as the potential moderating effect child temperament has on the relationship between a BPD diagnosis or high borderline features and mother-child synchrony. Analyses were conducted both with original subscales of the Personality Assessment Inventory-Borderline Features (PAI-BOR) scale for maternal borderline features and the Child Behavior Questionnaire-Short Form (CBQ-SF) for child temperament as well as with subscales for these two measures factor analyzed with the current sample. Contrary to expectations, there were no group differences in synchrony. Using factor analyzed PAI-BOR subscales, maternal ‘negative relationships’ significantly negatively correlated with synchrony, and maternal total borderline features as well as ‘affective instability’ negatively correlated with synchrony with marginal significance. ‘Impulsivity’ and ‘reckless spending’ did not significantly correlate with synchrony. Similarly, when using original PAI-BOR subscales, maternal negative relationships, identity disturbance, and total borderline features significantly negatively correlated with synchrony, and affective instability marginally negatively correlated. Again, selfharm/ impulsivity did not correlate with synchrony. Furthermore, child temperament was not correlated with synchrony when using factor analyzed CBQ-SF subscales. However, attentional focusing was positively correlated with synchrony when using original CBQ-SF subscales. Child temperament did not play a moderating role between maternal group status and synchrony using either set of subscales. Child temperament also did not play a moderating role between borderline features and synchrony when using original PAI-BOR and CBQ-SF subscales. However, when using factor analyzed PAI-BOR and CBQ-SF subscales, child temperament did act as a moderator such that mothers’ negative relationships were negatively associated with synchrony at low but not high levels of child ‘effortful control’. Clinical implications, limitations, and future directions are discussed.

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