Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



Major Professor

Jenny Macfie

Committee Members

Lowell Gaertner, Greg Stuart


Opioid use is a growing problem within this country, with estimates ranging from a 127% increase between 1998 to 2011 (Maeda, Bateman, Clancy, Creanga, & Leffert, 2014) to an increase of 373% between 2000 and 2009 (Patrick et al., 2012). One implication is an increased incidence of preterm birth, defined as birth before 37 weeks gestation (Kramer et al., 2000; Norwitz & Robinson, 2001). Previous research supports an association between opioid use and preterm birth (Nørgaard, Nielsson, & Heide-Jørgensen, 2015). No research has evaluated the role mental health diagnoses aside from anxiety and depression (Benningfield et al., 2010) play in conjunction with opioid use in exacerbating the risk of preterm birth. In the proposed study, the focus is on Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). BPD is a severe and chronic disorder that can be assessed with a categorical diagnosis or along a continuum of self-reported features (affective instability, identity disturbance, presence of negative relationships, and self-harm/impulsivity; Morey, 1991). While research suggests that BPD features are associated with opioid use (Kurdziel-Adams et al., in press), no research has evaluated how borderline features may relate to the relationship between opioid use and preterm birth and may serve to exacerbate the biological risks presented by opioid use. The proposed study addresses this gap and evaluates whether borderline features moderate the relationship between opioid use and preterm birth in order to inform interventions to help prevent premature delivery in women who misuse opioids in pregnancy.

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