Childhood risk factors, emotion awareness and regulation in borderline personality disorder

Electronic versions


  • Louise Vickers

    Research areas

  • PhD, School of Psychology


Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is characterised by emotional dysregulation, behavioural impulsivity and difficulties in interpersonal functioning (American Psychiatric Association, 2000a). Due to the high rate of self-injurious behaviours and risk of suicide associated with the disorder, BPD is often considered a serious public health problem, particularly for mental health services and for those individuals who experience the features. This thesis aims to explore childhood risk factors and adult features associated with BPD. Firstly, a systematic review explored the evidence available for the role of childhood adversity and attachment in the later development of BPD, in order to ascertain a possible developmental trajectory. Findings revealed that the majority of studies reviewed did report significant associations between childhood adversity, such as trauma, neglect and separation and later development of BPD features.
Findings also revealed some evidence for the role of the parent-child relationship via perceptions of parents being less caring that may be worthy of further investigation. The empirical paper examined the role of alexithymia, emotional dysregulation and thought suppression in adults with BPD.
Increased levels of all of these constructs were found in the BPD group compared to controls. Results suggested that individuals with BPD may oscillate between strategies that involve under-regulation of affect and strategies that involve over
-regulation of affect, which have been researched less in the literature.
These findings have implications for theory, future research and clinical practice, which are discussed in the third chapter of the thesis. A short reflective commentary on the research process is also provided. Overall findings highlight
a possible developmental pathway and framework to understand BPD, where adversity and invalidation may interfere with basic abilities in emotion processing. In turn, difficulties identifying and describing emotions, and thought suppression may contribute to the emotional dysregulation, behavioural impulsivity and interpersonal problems observed in BPD.


Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Award date3 Sep 2014