Borderline personality disorder: a study of adult personality and childhood trauma

Milburn, Nicole (1999) Borderline personality disorder: a study of adult personality and childhood trauma. Other Degree thesis, Victoria University of Technology.


Borderline PersonaHty Disorder (BPD) is a complex phenomenon which poses a considerable challenge to mental health researchers and clinicians. This research aimed to investigate childhood trauma history and BPD, and possible overlap with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, following a path set by Herman and van der Kolk. This path was broadened to include a study of adult personality profile using the MMPI-2 and Rorschach Test. A subsidiary aim, developed as a result of the difficulties recruiting participants, was to investigate the experience of participants taking part in the research. Ten female outpatients diagnosed with BPD took part in the Traumatic Antecedents Interview (TAI), a semi-structured interview schedule looking at childhood trauma experiences of sexual abuse, physical abuse, witnessing domestic violence, emotional and physical neglect, separation and loss and family chaos. Participants also completed the MMPI-2 and Dissociative Experiences Scale. Five participants completed a valid Rorschach Test. Results show that participants reported significant childhood trauma history, dissociation, and post traumatic stress symptomatology. Participants were found to experience both cummulative and nested traumatic experiences. The MMPI-2 profile was consistent within the sample and with other research findings. Dissociation was not positively related to severity of childhood trauma, severity of MMPI-2 profile, or severity of post traumatic stress symptomatology. This may have reflected a two-way effect of PTSD where patients can experience a dominance of overwhelming intrusive symptoms or psychic numbing and dissociation. Results from Study 2 show that there was no change in PTSD symptoms between Study 1 and Study 2 on a measure developed to evaluate the experience of participating in Study 1. This measure included items specifically addressing PTSD symptoms. Participants reported positive experience of the relationship with the researcher. Results overall support a growing body of research attesting to the existence of childhood trauma history in patients diagnosed with BPD. Specific theories of BPD were found to inadequately incorporate empirical findings and a broadening of approach to include developmental perspectives is warranted.

Additional Information

Doctor of Psychology (Clinical)

Item type Thesis (Other Degree thesis)
Subjects Historical > FOR Classification > 1701 Psychology
Historical > Faculty/School/Research Centre/Department > School of Social Sciences and Psychology
Keywords adult child abuse victims; borderline personality disorder; psychic trauma; children
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