Retrospective reporting of childhood experiences and borderline personality disorder features in a non-clinical sample: A cognitive-behavioural perspective

Carr, S 2006, Retrospective reporting of childhood experiences and borderline personality disorder features in a non-clinical sample: A cognitive-behavioural perspective, Professional Doctorate, Health Sciences, RMIT University.


Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Retrospective reporting of childhood experiences and borderline personality disorder features in a non-clinical sample: A cognitive-behavioural perspective
Author(s) Carr, S
Year 2006
Abstract The purpose of the current study was to investigate the relationship between Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) symptoms and childhood experiences, and to explore the role of Early Maladaptive Schemas and core beliefs as variables possibly mediating this relationship. Previous research with clinical samples has established a strong link between childhood maltreatment and adult BPD (& other PD) symptoms in clinical samples. However, difficulties with these studies limit the specificity of results.

For example, BPD has been shown to be highly comorbid with other axis I and axis II psychiatric conditions. Given that studies examining the relationship between BPD and childhood maltreatment generally fail to control for these comorbid conditions, the specificity of their results must be questioned. Furthermore, it has been well established that childhood familial environment is strongly related to childhood maltreatment. Again studies examining the relationship between BPD and childhood maltreatment have generally failed to concurrently assess childhood familial environments, hence opening the possibility that the relationship between BPD and childhood maltreatment may be due to family functioning rather than childhood maltreatment per se. Finally, studies linking childhood maltreatment with adult BPD have primarily utilized clinical samples. However, the primary use of clinical samples to examine the aetiology of disorders in this context ignores the vast literature showing adequate psychological functio ning for the majority of individuals exposed to childhood maltreatment. Hence, the primary aim of the current study was to examine the relationship between childhood maltreatment and adult BPD symptoms in a primarily non-clinical sample whilst statistically controlling for commonly comorbid axis I and axis II symptomatology and concurrently measuring childhood familial functioning.

It was a secondary aim of the current study to examine the mediating effects of beliefs on the relationship between childhood factors (i.e., childhood maltreatment & childhood familial functioning) and adult BPD symptomatology. That is, cognitive-behavioural theorists argue that personality disorders may be triggered by adverse childhood experiences leading to maladaptive beliefs (or schemas) related to the self, others, and the world, and it is these beliefs which lead to the behavioural disturbances evident in personality disorders.

One hundred and eighty-five primarily non-clinical participants completed questionnaires measuring a variety of axis I and axis II symptoms, early maladaptive schemas and core beliefs, as well as retrospective reports of family functioning and childhood maltreatment. Results showed a significant relationship between childhood factors and adult BPD symptomatology. For example, the largest correlation between BPD symptoms and a childhood factor was .27 (for childhood emotional abuse). Furthermore, early maladaptive schemas and core beliefs were found to mediate the relationship between childhood factors and adult BPD symptomatology thus supporting cognitive-behavioural theories of personality disorders. However, early maladaptive schemas and core beliefs were also found to mediate the relationship between childhood factors and other Axis I and Axis II symptoms.

Hence, it was concluded that while there was some support for a cognitive mediation hypothesis for BPD symptoms, future research is needed in exploring the specificity of the cognitive mediation hypothesis for BPD.
Degree Professional Doctorate
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Health Sciences
Keyword(s) Borderline personality disorder
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