Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



Major Professor

Jenny Macfie

Committee Members

Paula Fite, Deb Welsh


This study examined autonomy and relatedness in a low socioeconomic status sample of adolescent children of mothers with borderline personality disorder (BPD), compared to a normative comparison group, during a video-taped problem solving task. The interpersonal difficulties with individuation and separation within relationships that characterize BPD, may create a diathesis for psychopathology among adolescent children of women with this disorder. The parent-teen interactions were transcribed and coded using Allen, Hauser et al., (2003)’s Autonomy and Relatedness Coding System. Mothers with BPD scored significantly higher on the inhibition of autonomy and inhibition of relatedness than did comparison mothers, although no group differences were evident on promotion of autonomy and relatedness. Mothers with BPD were also more likely to employ the negative behavior of blurring, and hostility than were comparisons. Contrary to hypothesis, no significant group differences were found between the two adolescent samples, either in promotion of autonomy and relatedness, or inhibition of autonomy and relatedness. However, as hypothesized, adolescent children of women with BPD were marginally more likely to employ recanting behaviors, compared to the comparison group. Implications for the maternal-child relationship and adolescent well-being are discussed.

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