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J Nerv Ment Dis. 2006 May;194(5):341-8.

Adult social attachment disturbance is related to childhood maltreatment and current symptoms in borderline personality disorder.

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  • 1University of California, Davis Medical Center, Sacramento, California 95817, USA.


We characterized borderline personality disorder (BPD) along two fundamental dimensions of adult social attachment and evaluated attachment associations with childhood maltreatment and current symptoms using self-report measures in 40 outpatients with DSM-IV BPD. The BPD group had significantly greater dimensional attachment impairment and rate of fearful attachment type compared with a healthy control group. Among BPD subjects, dimensional attachment-anxiety was specifically associated with sexual abuse, whereas attachment-avoidance was associated with all five maltreatment types. The two attachment dimensions showed divergent associations with current interpersonal problems, impulsivity subtypes and mood symptoms. We conclude that (1) BPD is characterized by adult attachment disturbance; (2) these attachment problems are strongly related to childhood maltreatment, and to current interpersonal problems and clinical symptoms that are considered core features of BPD; and (3) the diverse problems of BPD patients may arise from two basic mechanisms, each tied to a different type of attachment disturbance, developmental history, and clinical outcome.

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