Date of Award

12-2017

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Major

Psychology

Major Professor

Jenny Macfie

Committee Members

L. Christian Elledge, Deborah Welsh

Abstract

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a severe mental illness often characterized by affective instability, an unstable sense of self, fear of abandonment, and difficulty maintaining stable relationships with others. Child maltreatment has been identified as a risk factor for the development of the disorder. Additionally, research has found offspring of mothers with BPD experience higher rates of maltreatment than those without a mother with the disorder. The current study examined maternal child maltreatment and intergenerational transmission of child maltreatment in the context of maternal borderline features in a sample of 41 adolescents aged 14-18 and their mothers. Results revealed that maternal diagnosis of BPD was associated with physical abuse, physical neglect, emotional abuse, emotional neglect, and sexual abuse, but not supervisory neglect. Maternal BPD features were associated with emotional abuse, sexual abuse and physical neglect, but not physical abuse, emotional neglect, or supervisory neglect. Additionally, intergenerational transmission of child maltreatment indeed occurred at a higher rate for offspring of mothers with BPD. Further, the borderline features of negative relationships and affective instability specifically significantly predicted transmission, while identity disturbance and self-harm/impulsivity were marginally significant in predicting transmission. Empirical and clinical implications of maternal BPD as it relates to child maltreatment subtypes and transmission of child maltreatment are discussed.

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