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How a Mother with Borderline Personality Disorder Affects Her Children

Excerpted from: Andrea E. Lamont, Graduate Student Journal of Psychology, 2006, Vol. 8, Teachers College, Columbia University

Mothers with Borderline Personality Disorder are characterized by a history of broken relationships and marked instability in multiple domains of their lives. It is anticipated that these characteristic behaviors infiltrate the mother-child relationship as much as it interferes with other relationships.

Children of mothers with BPD show a significantly higher prevalence of ‘disorganized’ attachment than children of mothers without BPD. Disorganized children face stress management problems, frequently engage in externalizing behaviors, and may even face dissociative behaviors later in life. Evidence suggest that, even in middle childhood, children of mothers with BPD may display problems with interpersonal relatedness and affective regulation. Follow-up studies show that disorganized children have more difficulty engaging in ‘democratic’ play with peers at ages six and seven. These children often make executive decisions and are overall more controlling in interactions with both peers and parents. Additionally, disorganized children maintain an inability to appropriately resolve frightening situations in middle childhood years.


Children of mothers with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) are a potentially disadvantaged group of children that are at risk for future psychopathology. Crandell et al. (1997) demonstrated that attachment status is not completely stable, however, children who are able to resolve early traumatic experiences are able to obtain an ‘earned secure’ attachment status in adulthood. Adults with an earned secure status function comparably to adults who had secure attachment status as children (Crandell et al, 1997). These findings hold great promises for the prognosis of children of mothers with BPD. With adequate attention and intervention, there is hope that children of mothers with BPD will overcome the risks associated with this maternal psychopathology.

Attachment Status and Early Experiences of Mothers with Borderline Personality Disorder

Mothers with BPD are characterized by a history of broken relationships and marked instability in multiple domains of their lives. It is anticipated that the characteristic behaviors of BPD will infiltrate the mother-child relationship as much as it interferes with other relationships.

Borderline Personality Disorder Symptoms in Context of Parenting

Characteristic symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder are likely to hinder the ability of a mother with BPD to parent effectively, thereby negatively affecting the social and emotional development of the child.

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Some characteristics of adults shamed in childhood

Written by Jane Middleton-Moz

1. Adults shamed as children are afraid of vulnerability and fear of exposure of the self.

2. Adults shamed as children may suffer extreme shyness, embarrassment and feelings of being inferior to others. They don't believe they make mistakes. Instead they believe they are mistakes.

3. Adults shamed as children fear intimacy and tend to avoid real commitment in relationships. These adults frequently express the feeling that one foot is out of the door prepared to run.

4. Adults shamed as children may appear either grandiose and self-centered or seem selfless.

5. Adults shamed as children feel that, "No matter what I do, it won't make a difference; I am and always will be worthless and unlovable."

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6. Adults shamed as children frequently feel defensive when even a minor negative feedback is given. They suffer feelings of severe humiliation if forced to look at mistakes or imperfections.

7. Adults shamed as children frequently blame others before they can be blamed.

8. Adults shamed as children may suffer from debilitating guilt These individuals apologize constantly. They assume responsibility for the behavior of those around them.

9. Adults shamed as children feel like outsiders. They feel a pervasive sense of loneliness throughout their lives, even when surrounded with those who love and care.

10. Adults shamed as children project their beliefs about themselves onto others. They engage in mind-reading that is not in their favor, consistently feeling judged by others.

11. Adults shamed as children often feel ugly, flawed and imperfect. These feelings regarding self may lead to focus on clothing and make-up in an attempt to hide flaws in personal appearance and self.

12. Adults shamed as children often feel angry and judgmental towards the qualities in others that they feel ashamed of in themselves. This can lead to shaming others.

13. Adults shamed as children often feel controlled from the outside as well as from within. Normal spontaneous expression is blocked.

14. Adults shamed as children feel they must do things perfectly or not at all. This internalized belief frequently leads to performance anxiety and procrastination.

15. Adults shamed as children experience depression.

16. Adults shamed as children block their feelings of shame through compulsive behaviors like workaholis, eating disorders, shopping, substance abuse, list-making or gambling.

17. Adults shamed as children lie to themselves and others.

18. Adults shamed as children often have caseloads rather than friendships.

19. Adults shamed as children often involve themselves in compulsive processing of past interactions and events and intellectualization as a defense against pain.

20. Adults shamed as children have little sense of emotional boundaries. They feel constantly violated by others. They frequently build false boundaries through walls, rage, pleasing or isolation.

21. Adults shamed as children are stuck in dependency or counter-dependency.





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