Features of Borderline Personality Disorder, Perceived Childhood Emotional Invalidation, and Dysfunction Within Current Romantic Relationships

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Abstract

The mechanisms through which current romantic relationship dysfunction develops in individuals with borderline personality disorder (BPD) symptoms are still unclear. One possible pathway may be childhood experiences of emotional invalidation by parents, which may result in the development of poor social problem-solving skills or cognitive responses such as splitting, which impair current romantic relationships. This study examines the relationship between features of BPD and current romantic relationship dysfunction, and demonstrates that perceived emotional invalidation by parents during childhood mediates the relationship between BPD features and current romantic relationship dysfunction. Structural equations modeling was used to test the hypothesized model in 758 young adults in an ethnically diverse community sample. The proposed model fit the data well; perceived childhood emotional invalidation partially mediated the relationship between features of BPD and romantic relationship dysfunction, even when controlling for the presence of a major depressive episode in the last year. The findings of this study suggest that individuals with features of BPD experience relationship dysfunction that cannot be accounted for by comorbid depression and that perceived childhood emotional invalidation may contribute to these problems.

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