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Compr Psychiatry. 1993 Jul-Aug;34(4):254-7.

Association between borderline personality structure and history of childhood abuse in adult volunteers.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA.


Childhood abuse has been implicated as a leading factor in the development of borderline personality disorder (BPD). Data in this report, drawn from an ongoing study of the therapeutic effect of fluoxetine in BPD patients, were gathered in an attempt to replicate previous findings indicating a history of physical abuse in 71% and sexual abuse in 67% of adult BPD subjects. Thirty-one subjects for a study of the pharmacological treatment of BPD or BPD traits met criteria for the study. Those who had been previously hospitalized for a psychiatric disorder, who had recently been suicidal, or who had recent histories of self-mutilation were excluded. Specific information about childhood abuse was gathered using questions from a previous study of abuse histories in BPD patients. All subjects were then interviewed in greater depth regarding past experiences of abuse as part of the ongoing study of the relationship of childhood attachment experience and adult psychopathology. Six of 31 subjects (19.4%) reported a definite history of childhood physical and/or sexual abuse. Four of these subjects met criteria for full BPD, and two met criteria for BPD traits. Three of 31 subjects reported a history of physical abuse (9.7%); five reported a history of sexual abuse (16.1%). Two of the six who reported abuse reported both physical and sexual abuse. A history of childhood abuse is not necessarily linked to the development of BPD or BPD traits in all individuals. The following hypothesis is suggested: BPD may represent a spectrum of symptomatic severity.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

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