The Aftermath of Trauma: The Impact of Perceived and Anticipated Invalidation of Childhood Sexual Abuse on Borderline Symptomatology

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Many individuals with borderline personality disorder (BPD) report a history of childhood sexual abuse (CSA). Yet, few individuals who experience CSA ultimately develop BPD. Researchers speculate that subjective experiences of emotional invalidation co-occurring with CSA or in response to an experience of CSA, but not the CSA itself, may be an important contributor to the development of BPD. To examine this issue, college student participants' self-reported CSA, perceived or anticipated invalidation to the disclosure of the CSA experience, and perceived general invalidation by caregivers in the developmental environment were used to predict borderline symptomatology. Results revealed that perceived and anticipated CSA-specific invalidation at the time of disclosure, as well as a pervasive environment of general invalidation predicted borderline symptomatology. Furthermore, although both CSA-specific invalidation at the time of disclosure and general invalidation appeared to contribute in an additive manner to the prediction of borderline symptomatology among previous nondisclosers of CSA, there was some evidence that both types of invalidation interact to predict borderline symptomatology among previous disclosers of CSA experience.

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