Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



Major Professor

Jenny Macfie

Committee Members

Jennifer Bolden, L. Christian Elledge


In this study we sampled mothers with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and their young children ages 4-7 (n = 36), as well as normative comparisons (n = 34). We assessed temperament in both mothers and their children. Mothers reported on their own and on their children’s temperament. Controlling for maternal current major depressive disorder and education, mothers with BPD reported more negative affectivity, less effortful control, and less positive affect than did normative comparison mothers. Children whose mothers had BPD had more negative affectivity (fear and frustration) and less effortful control, but not less smiling and laughter. When controlling for maternal lifetime history of major depressive disorder in addition to the aforementioned covariates, group differences in the mother sample did not change. The additional control of a maternal lifetime history of MDD in group differences analyses in the child sample resulted in the children of mothers with BPD having more sadness than the children of normative comparison mothers. However, the children of mothers with BPD no longer had significantly higher inhibitory control than the children of normative comparison mothers. In addition, mothers' temperamental traits were all positively correlated with their children’s corresponding ones. Furthermore, each self-reported maternal borderline feature (affective instability, identity disturbance, self-harm, and negative relationships) significantly positively correlated with mothers’ negative affectivity and significantly negatively correlated with mother’s effortful control and positive affect. In addition, each maternal borderline feature significantly positively correlated with children's negative affectivity on all scales except discomfort and significantly negatively correlated with children’s effortful control. No maternal borderline feature significantly negatively correlated with children's smiling and laughter. Results are discussed as increasing our understanding of the intergenerational transmission of BPD through temperament.

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