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Is there a connection between whether a relationship exists between mothers with Borderline Personality Disorder and depression, challenges in interpersonal functioning, and/or attachment difficulties in their children? There was a study done to try to determine the effects of mothers with Borderline Personality Disorder on their teen's social problems.

Adult Child of BPD Mother – Search For Closure Audio Program

Writing in The Pediatric News March 2007 issue, Sarah Pressman shed light on this study:

"A large study indicates that mothers with symptoms of borderline personality disorder may be more likely to have adolescent offspring with problems forming relationships, Nathaniel H. Herr and his colleagues reported in a poster presentation at the annual meeting of the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies.

The researchers used a community-based sample of 704 mothers and their adolescent and young adult children to determine whether a relationship exists between mothers with borderline personality disorder (BPD) and depressive symptoms, interpersonal functioning, and attachment cognitions in their offspring. The researchers also sought to determine whether a possible association between maternal BPD and the above findings in the adolescent children is independent of depression in mothers and their children, said Mr. Herr, a graduate student at the University of California, Los Angeles.

The study sample of 704 mother child pairs was culled from the larger sample of 7,775 children used in the Mater-University of Queensland (Australia) Study of Pregnancy. The participants were 92% white, mostly working- or middle-class Australians. The adolescents evaluated in the study included 342 boys (49%) and 363 girls (51%).

The researchers used the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV (SCID-IV) to measure depression rates in the mothers and children. They also used the Beck Depression Inventory to measure depressive symptoms in the children at age 15 and age 20. They used four additional measures to evaluate interpersonal functioning in the adolescent offspring, including reports from teachers and interviewer-rated measures.

The study identified a high rate of depression in the mothers, with about half having features of depression. The maternal participants completed the SCID-II questionnaire, which predicts a future diagnosis of BPD. Seventy-six of the mothers had more than six symptoms that were predictive of BPD.

The results showed that when the researchers controlled for the depression in the mothers and in their adolescent offspring, BPD symptoms in the mothers predicted many of the adverse outcomes in their offspring.

The study also showed an independent relationship between maternal BPD symptoms and interviewer ratings of higher social life chronic stress as reported by the offspring, and more chronic stress in the parent-adolescent relationship as reported by the mothers.

Other findings included lower popularity of the offspring as reported by teachers; and poor self-perception of the social acceptability and the capacity to make close friends, and fearful and insecure attachment cognitions as reported by the offspring.

Maternal hostility also is a significant problem for their offspring. "With increasing borderline symptoms, the kids of borderline morns were likely to rate their mothers as hostile," Mr. Herr said.

Although maternal BPD was not associated with depressive symptoms in the 15-year-old offspring, the results did show an association at age 20, despite controlling for youth depressive symptoms and major depressive events in the mothers."

As a person with a mother with Borderline Personality Disorder I can relate to what they describe in this study when I think back to my teen years. I am not sure what entirely is meant by "attachment cognitions" because I think that the experience of attachment for an infant and then a young child (though I didn't have this with my mother) would be one that is experienced and perceived – or whose absence is experienced and perceived – both in feelings and thoughts. The reality in my own experience was that my mother having BPD meant that she was inconsistent in trying to care for me, emotionally unavailable and that we did not bond or attach.

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This for me, is the source of my core wound of abandonment and in large part, at the very least, my own going on to be diagnosed with BPD at the age of 19, in 1976.

My borderline mother was extremely hostile whenever I had any need. My needing as a child, like every child needs would produce in her tremendous hostility to the point, often, of her reacting violently and abusively toward to me. Pounding in to me literally the lesson that it is more painful to need "mommy" than it is to sit with unmet needs that were needs that required meeting if I was going to be able to develop healthy attachment, healthy interpersonal functioning, and not end up depressed, shamed, and abandoned myself.

The experience of those unmet needs at a young age in childhood for those who have a mother with BPD has lasting negative effects, whether one goes on to develop BPD or not because it impacts how one feels about one's self, if in fact one is able to grow up with any sense of self at all.

When we don't know who we are, as teens, we can't possibly know how to really know others. We can't connect or attach in ways that allow healthier relating and interpersonal functioning.

In my experience of my borderline mother the entire relationship – such as it was – we never bonded – was really a sad and depressing one. It was a toxic experience. It was a profoundly psychologically wounding experience. It was an experience with such gravity and importance that to this day, 14 years after I have recovered from BPD there is still a sense of loss and grief.


Adult Child of BPD Mother – Search For Closure Audio Program

It is loss and grief that is manageable now. It doesn't run my life anymore. But even with all the recovery and healing I've done, there is still this small but significant place inside that hurts when anything reminds me of my mother and all the damage and conflict and all that was lost.

The impact of having a mother with BPD is for most, far-reaching. It also isn't just something that effects you profoundly in your teen years. It has a life-long effect.

© A.J. Mahari, July 11, 2009 – All rights reserved.

A.J. Mahari is a Life Coach who, among other things, specializes in working with those with BPD and their loved ones. A.J. has 6 years experience as a Life Coach and has coached hundreds of clients from all over the world.

Borderline personality disorder in mom predicts teen’s social problems