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Psychol Psychother. 2006 Sep;79(Pt 3):309-21.

Borderline personality disorder features: the role of self-discrepancies and self-complexity.

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Department of Psychology, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Australia.



Borderline personality disorder (BPD) involves disordered self-conceptions, along with dysphoria and anxiety. The present study examined the role of actual-ideal (AI) and actual-ought (AO) self-discrepancies, and self-complexity as predictors of borderline personality features in a student population.


AI and AO self-discrepancy magnitudes across all self-domains were assessed, along with self-complexity, idiographically and nomothetically. Borderline personality features were assessed using subscales of the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI-2).


Both AI and AO self-discrepancies were directly related to BPD personality features, in that those with larger self-discrepancies of both types reported more features. Self-complexity had no direct relationship to BPD personality features; rather, it moderated the relationship between AI, but not AO, self-discrepancies and BPD personality features. For individuals low in self-complexity, a stronger relationship between AI self-discrepancies and BPD personality features existed.


This study is novel in its consideration of the impact of features of the self-system on BPD personality features. It highlights the important role that AO self-discrepancies, and the combined role of AI self-discrepancies and self-complexity, have in increasing vulnerability to BPD. The findings suggest that different pathways might be involved in the vulnerability to BPD, depending on self-discrepancy type and level of self-complexity.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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