The Role of Childhood Sexual Abuse in Later Development of Borderline Personality Disorder Michael Speziale Harvard University, June 2007 There are several emotionally traumatic experiences, such as abuse or separation, which when endured during childhood may facilitate the development of Borderline Personality Disorder later in adulthood. There is evidence that while these traumas are probably not the only reason a person may later develop Borderline Personality
Disorder, as it is a very complex disorder, that it is still a very large factor. Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is an undeniably broad and complex disorder. Its etiology is most likely multi-factoral, and as such there is no single deﬁnitive therapy. Therefore, a comprehensive approach to the disorder must consider multiple dimensions, as is noted in Borderline Personality Disorder, A Multidimensional Approach (pp. xii). The purpose of this paper is to show that there is sufﬁcient evidence to sustain the theory that while it is highly improbable that there is only one single factor which causes BPD, traumatic experiences in childhood can produce psychological disorders in adolescence and adulthood. The traumatic experiences explored in this paper can be summarized into ﬁve main groups (early separation of loss, physical abuse, verbal abuse, emotional abuse, and sexual abuse).
First, theories derived from family therapy sessions have shown that psychopathology may be based on effects such as subtle but long-lasting structural aberration in family life (Lewis et al. 1976). Other studies have shown that trauma may be an explanation for the development of BPD by demonstrating that chronic Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder can be developed through exposure to intense trauma which can affect the person’s personality as a whole (Herman and van der Kolk 1987). One of the traumatic events included in the theory that early trauma may lead to the development of BPD is early separation or loss from one or more of the parent ﬁgures. It has been demonstrated that there is a very high percentage of BPD patients who have experienced an early separation or loss from their parents during their childhood (Bradley 1979; Paris et al. 1988; Soloff and Millward 1983a; Zanarini et al. 1989b). Paris however, did ﬁnd that BPD patients, when compared to patients with other personality disorders, had similar rates of parental separation. Separation or loss before age 5 in female subjects was relatively high (21%) in BPD, but not more so than the control subjects. Separation or loss in female subjects before age 16 was also high (51%), but again no more so than in the control subjects. The rate of separation or loss in male subjects before the age of 5 was relatively low (16.4%), again similar to the control subjects. However separation or loss in male subjects before the age of 16 (42.6%), was signiﬁcantly greater than that of the control subjects. It should be noted that the available information on this study did not reveal the researchers’ criteria for “separation or loss.” It is entirely possible that one patient’s separation experience could have been much more emotionally manageable than another’s. (e.g., parents’ divorce, vs. the father deserting the family
and leaving the mother and child with nothing,) which would be quite contrastive in the way it caused emotional trauma. However, without further information, any postulation as to which group endured higher levels of emotional trauma would be biased. In addition, it is well established that several factors, one of which is a genetic predisposition to overproduction of glucocorticoids, are paramount in determining how different people react to stress, as well as how they interpret and react to emotionally traumatic events. When you examine the evidence, it is most likely that separation and loss constitute an important psychological risk factor for BPD, however non-speciﬁc. (Paris et al. 1994a). Borderline Personality...
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