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J Nerv Ment Dis. 1999 Feb;187(2):65-71.

Violence in the lives of adult borderline patients.

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McLean Hospital, Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Belmont, Massachusetts 02478, USA.


The purpose of this study was to assess the experiences of adult violence reported by a sample of criteria-defined borderline patients and axis II controls. The experiences of having had a physically abusive partner and/or having been raped reported by 362 personality-disordered inpatients were assessed blind to diagnostic status using a semistructured research interview. Forty-six percent of borderline patients reported having been a victim of violence since the age of 18. Borderline patients (N = 290) were significantly more likely than axis II controls (N = 72) to report having had a physically abusive partner, having been raped, having been raped multiple times, having been raped by a known perpetrator, and having been both physically assaulted by a partner and raped. Female borderline patients were significantly more likely than male borderline patients to have been physically and/or sexually assaulted as adults (50% vs. 26%). However, a significantly higher percentage of borderline patients of both genders reported experiences of adult violence than controls of the same gender. Four risk factors were found to significantly predict whether borderline patients had an adult history of being a victim of violence: female gender, a substance use disorder that began before the age of 18, childhood sexual abuse, and emotional withdrawal by a caretaker. The results of this study suggest that both male and female borderline patients are at substantial risk for being physically and/or sexually victimized as adults.

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