An Examination of Social Network Quality and Composition in Women With and Without Borderline Personality Disorder

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Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is characterized by interpersonal difficulties including fears of abandonment, unstable relationships, and intense and inappropriate anger (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). However, there is limited research aimed at understanding the social networks of individuals with BPD, particularly in comparison to others. In this study, we compared the social networks of women with BPD to a group of women who did not meet criteria for any psychological disorders (i.e., healthy control (HC) group). Participants recruited from the community and local clinics completed a diagnostic evaluation and the social network assessment, a measure designed to assess the number and perceived quality of partners with whom participants frequently interact. Women in the BPD group had smaller social networks, characterized by less satisfaction and support, and more conflict and criticism among partners than women in the HC group. In addition, the networks of women with BPD were more variable in terms of these quality variables compared to the networks of HC women. However, the 2 groups did not differ on overall closeness or variability in closeness in relationships. Finally, women with BPD reported more relationships in which there had been a significant change or rupture in the past month. These findings suggest that interpersonal distress experienced by women with BPD occurs in the context of smaller and less satisfying social networks compared to the networks of their peers. The examination of additional control groups and longitudinal social network change will further characterize interpersonal dysfunction experienced in BPD.

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