The Moderating Role of Maternal Attachment on Borderline Personality Disorder Features and Dependent Life Stress



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Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) affects 1.6% of adolescents and 20% of inpatient adolescents. Life stress has been linked to BPD during childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. Moreover, previous research, in adults, has linked BPD features to dependent stress (i.e., stress that is induced or elicited by the individual rather than the situation). Prior research has not examined dependent stress alongside BPD features in adolescents. Given prior research showing that secure attachment moderates the association between psychopathology and dependent stressful life events in adults, the current study examined attachment security as a buffer against stressful life events, a proposition that has not been evaluated with regard to adolescents with BPD. We hypothesized a moderation model in which (1) BPD features and diagnosis would be positively associated with dependent life stress, (2) secure attachment would be negatively associated with BPD features and diagnosis, and (3) attachment would moderate the relation between BPD and dependent life stress. Results supported the first two hypotheses; BPD diagnosis was significantly, positively associated with dependent life stress, and negatively associated with two attachment variables, maternal availability and dependability. However, no such association was present for two other attachment variables, maternal care and overprotection, nor was there a significant moderating effect of attachment. Contrary to the third hypothesis, no significant evidence that attachment acts as a buffer in the relation between BPD and dependent life stress was found when all three variables were assessed concurrently. Nonetheless, results confirm previously documented relations between BPD, dependent life stress, and attachment.



Attachment, Borderline personality disorder, Dependent life stress, Adolescents