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J Pers Disord. 2009 Oct;23(5):433-46. doi: 10.1521/pedi.2009.23.5.433.

A prospective investigation of borderline personality disorder in abused and neglected children followed up into adulthood.

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John Jay College and Graduate Center, City University of New York, New York, USA.


Child abuse has been implicated as a risk factor for borderline personality disorder (BPD), yet few prospective longitudinal studies exist. The current study examined whether 500 individuals with documented cases of childhood physical and sexual abuse and neglect were at elevated risk of BPD in adulthood, compared to 396 demographically similar control children. Results indicated that significantly more abused and/or neglected children overall met criteria for BPD as adults, compared to controls, as did physically abused and neglected children. Having a parent with alcohol/drug problems and not being employed full-time, not being a high school graduate, and having a diagnosis of drug abuse, major depressive disorder, and posttraumatic stress disorder were predictors of BPD and mediated the relationship between childhood abuse/neglect and adult BPD. These results call attention to a heightened risk of BPD in physically abused and neglected children and the need to consider multiple pathways to BPD.

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