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Parental rearing and psychopathology in mothers of adolescents with and without borderline personality symptoms

H Marieke Schuppert1*, Casper J Albers2, Ruud B Minderaa1, Paul MG Emmelkamp3 and Maaike H Nauta4

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Psychiatry, University Medical Centre Groningen, Postbox 660, 9700 AR, Groningen, The Netherlands

2 Department of Psychometrics and Statistical Methods, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands

3 Department of Clinical Psychology, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

4 Department of Clinical Psychology, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands

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Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health 2012, 6:29  doi:10.1186/1753-2000-6-29

Published: 27 August 2012



A combination of multiple factors, including a strong genetic predisposition and environmental factors, are considered to contribute to the developmental pathways to borderline personality disorder (BPD). However, these factors have mostly been investigated retrospectively, and hardly in adolescents. The current study focuses on maternal factors in BPD features in adolescence.


Actual parenting was investigated in a group of referred adolescents with BPD features (Nā€‰=ā€‰101) and a healthy control group (Nā€‰=ā€‰44). Self-reports of perceived concurrent parenting were completed by the adolescents. Questionnaires on parental psychopathology (both Axis I and Axis II disorders) were completed by their mothers.


Adolescents reported significantly less emotional warmth, more rejection and more overprotection from their mothers in the BPD-group than in the control group. Mothers in the BPD group reported significantly more parenting stress compared to mothers in the control group. Also, these mothers showed significantly more general psychopathology and clusters C personality traits than mothers in the control group. Contrary to expectations, mothers of adolescents with BPD features reported the same level of cluster B personality traits, compared to mothers in the control group. Hierarchical logistic regression revealed that parental rearing styles (less emotional warmth, and more overprotection) and general psychopathology of the mother were the strongest factors differentiating between controls and adolescents with BPD symptoms.


Adolescents with BPD features experience less emotional warmth and more overprotection from their mothers, while the mothers themselves report more symptoms of anxiety and depression. Addition of family interventions to treatment programs for adolescents might increase the effectiveness of such early interventions, and prevent the adverse outcome that is often seen in adult BPD patients.

Borderline personality disorder; Adolescent; Rearing styles; Maternal psychopathology