Mothers with borderline personality and their young children: Adult Attachment Interviews, mother-child interactions, and children's narrative representations.Dev Psychopathol. 2014 May; 26(2):539-51.DP
Borderline personality disorder (BPD) involves disruptions in attachment, self, and self-regulation, domains conceptually similar to developmental tasks of early childhood. Because offspring of mothers with BPD are at elevated risk of developing BPD themselves (White, Gunderson, Zanarini, & Hudson, 2003), studying them may inform precursors to BPD. We sampled 31 children age 4-7 whose mothers have BPD and 31 normative comparisons. We examined relationships between mothers' Adult Attachment Interview (AAI) representations (George, Kaplan, & Main, 1984), mothers' observed parenting, and children's narrative representations. Replicating previous studies, mothers with BPD were more likely to be classified as preoccupied and unresolved on the AAI. In a larger sample, which included the current one, we also replicated two underlying AAI dimensions found in normative samples (Roisman, Fraley, & Belsky, 2007; Whipple, Bernier, & Mageau, 2011). Controlling for current mood, anxiety, and other personality disorders, mothers with BPD were significantly higher than were comparisons on the preoccupied/unresolved, but not the dismissive, dimension. Children's narrative representations relevant to disruptions in attachment (fear of abandonment and role reversal), self (incongruent child and self/fantasy confusion), and self-regulation (destruction of objects) were significantly correlated with the preoccupied/unresolved, but not the dismissive, dimension. Furthermore, mothers' parenting significantly mediated the relationship between the preoccupied/unresolved dimension and their children's narrative representations of fear of abandonment.