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Posted August, 2006

Psychopathology Among German Adolescents Whose Mothers
Have Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)

Many studies report findings for adults who are diagnosed as having BPD. However, few studies report findings for the offspring of people who have BPD. It would not be surprising to find higher rates of problems among the offspring of parents having major disorders such as BPD. Yet, to draw conclusions about associations between particular kinds of disorders among parents and problems among their offspring, it is necessary to compare offspring whose parents have different kinds of disorders. To avoid biases related to referral for clinical services, it is also important to draw samples from the general population rather than from clinical settings. In a general population sample of 3,748 adults in Pomerania, Germany, Barnow et al. (2006) used diagnostic interviews with mothers of 11- to 18-year-olds to identify those mothers who met criteria for BPD, no disorders, depressive disorders, or "Cluster C" personality disorders (avoidant, dependent, obsessive-compulsive). Mothers completed the CBCL while the adolescents completed the YSR. On most CBCL and YSR problem scales, adolescents whose mothers had BPD scored significantly higher than adolescents whose mothers had no disorders. More importantly, adolescents whose mothers had BPD also scored significantly higher than adolescents in all other groups on the Internalizing scale of both the CBCL and YSR, the CBCL Somatic Complaints syndrome, and the YSR Anxious/Depressed syndrome. On all three scales, adolescents whose mothers had depressive or Cluster C personality disorders also scored significantly higher than adolescents whose mothers had no disorders. Nevertheless, the still higher problem scores of adolescents whose mothers had BPD indicated that they were at especially high risk for emotional problems. In addition to their significantly higher scores on multiple CBCL and YSR problem scales, adolescents whose mothers had BPD also reported that their mothers were more overprotective and that their own self-esteem was lower than reported by adolescents in the other three groups. The authors concluded that "The large number of emotional problems identified in children of mothers with BPD is indicative of severe affective instability" (p. 971).

Reference:
Barnow, S., Spitzer, C., Grabe, H.J., Kessler, C., & Freyberger, H.J. (2006). Individual Characteristics, Familial Experience, and Psychopathology in Children of Mothers with Borderline Personality Disorder. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 45, 965-972.

Copyright © 2017 by Thomas Achenbach