Background/Objectives: Maladaptive parenting (including childhood maltreatment, abuse and neglect) has been implicated in the scientific literature exploring the aetiology of personality disorder, particularly borderline personality disorder (BPD). Our primary objective was to summarise the evidence on the relationship between parenting and personality disorder, assisting clinical decision-makers to translate this research into clinical policy and practice.
Methods: We conducted an overview of systematic reviews that assessed individuals with personality disorder pathology for experiences of maladaptive parenting, compared to psychiatric or healthy comparisons/controls, and the impact on psychopathological and relational outcomes. Systematic literature searches were conducted in Scopus, Web of Science, MEDLINE, PsycINFO, and by hand in August 2018. Methodological quality was assessed using the CASP systematic review checklist, and results were qualitatively synthesised. A predetermined protocol was registered in Prospective Register of Systematic Reviews (PROSPERO 2019:CRD42018096177).
Results: Of the 312 identified records, 293 abstracts were screened, 36 full-text articles were retrieved and eight systematic reviews met pre-determined criteria for qualitative synthesises. The majority of studies reported outcomes related to BPD (n = 7), and study design, methodology and quality varied. Within the eight systematic reviews there were 211 primary studies, of which 140 (66.35%) met eligibility criteria for inclusion in this overview. Eligible primary studies reported on 121,895 adult, child/adolescent and parent-offspring participants, with most studies focused on borderline personality pathology (n = 100, 71.43%). Study design and methodology also varied for these studies. Overall, five systematic reviews overwhelming found that maladaptive parenting was a psychosocial risk factor for the development of borderline personality pathology, and three studies found that borderline personality pathology was associated with maladaptive parenting, and negative offspring and parenting-offspring outcomes.
Conclusions: In light of these findings, we recommend greater emphasis on parenting in clinical practice and the development of parenting interventions for individuals with personality disorder. However, our understanding is limited by the heterogeneity and varying quality of the evidence, and as such, future research utilising more rigorous research methodology is needed.