Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



Major Professor

Jenny Macfie

Committee Members

Deborah P. Welsh, Paula J. Fite


Individuals with borderline personality disorder (BPD) experience severe and pervasive disturbances in the development of attachment relationships, identity, and emotion regulation. Given these deficits, mothers diagnosed with BPD are likely to experience significant difficulties in parenting their children. The present study examined the effect of maternal BPD and borderline personality features on emotional availability in interactions between mothers with BPD and their 4- to 7-year-old children. In a low socioeconomic status (SES) sample of n = 35 children of mothers diagnosed with BPD and n = 35 normative comparisons, groups were compared on maternal and child emotional availability, and self-reported maternal borderline personality features were assessed across the sample as a whole. No significant differences in emotional availability were found between groups. Across the sample as whole, however, maternal borderline personality features of affective instability, identity disturbance, negative relationships, and self-harm were significantly correlated with maternal intrusiveness and maternal hostility. Maternal borderline personality features of affective instability and negative relationships were significantly associated with maternal sensitivity, child responsiveness, and child involvement. Results are discussed in terms of putative precursors to BPD and preventive interventions.

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