Date of Award

12-2011

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Major

Psychology

Major Professor

Jenny A. Macfie

Committee Members

Deborah Welsh, Paula Fite

Abstract

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a severe and chronic disorder that has been described as a disorder of attachment. The present study examined the effect of maternal BPD and borderline personality features on the romantic attachment styles of mothers with BPD and their 14-17 year old offspring. In a low socioeconomic status (SES) sample of n=28 adolescents whose mothers have BPD and n=28 normative comparisons, groups were compared on maternal and adolescent self-reported romantic attachment styles. Across the sample as a whole, the relationship between borderline features and romantic attachment styles were assessed. Also, the relationship between maternal borderline features and adolescent romantic attachment ratings were assessed. Mothers with BPD reported themselves as more anxious and more avoidant than normative comparisons did. Adolescent offspring of mothers with BPD also rated themselves as more anxious and more avoidant that normative comparisons did. Maternal anxiety and maternal avoidance correlated with adolescent avoidance. Maternal anxiety correlated with all maternal BPD features. Maternal avoidance correlated with identity problems, negative relationships, self harm, and total borderline features. Adolescent ratings of anxiety correlated with all adolescent borderline features. Maternal anxiety correlated with adolescent affective instability and total borderline features. Results are discussed in terms of precursors to BPD.

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