Publication Details

Steele, K., Townsend, M. & Grenyer, B. (2020). Parenting stress and competence in borderline personality disorder is associated with mental health, trauma history, attachment and reflective capacity. Borderline Personality Disorder and Emotion Dysregulation, 7 (1), 8-1-8-14.


2020 The Author(s). Background: Individuals with borderline personality disorder (BPD) may experience additional challenges in their parenting role, including increased stress and lower self-efficacy and satisfaction. These difficulties have been shown to impact their children, and may be implicated in the potential intergenerational transmission of personality vulnerabilities. Methods: Parental stress and competence variables were examined in a cross-sectional study of 284 parents (94.72% female, M = 37.37, SD = 8.04 years), of which 69 (24.30%) met caseness for BPD criteria. We completed a multivariate analysis of variance to test how parents with 'high BPD features' (meeting caseness for BPD) compared to those with 'low BPD features' on a range of parenting and mental health variables. Multivariate linear regression modelling was then utilised to explore whether these parenting variables were associated with personality and psychological wellbeing, recalled trauma history, orientation to attachment relationships and reflective capacity. Results: Individuals high in BPD features experienced more stress and lower competence in their parenting role than those low in BPD features. These parents also reported more personality vulnerabilities, poorer psychological wellbeing, recalled more traumatic experiences in their childhood, were more likely to endorse insecure attachment styles and had poorer reflective capacity. In the regression model, parenting stress and competence was associated with personality traits, general psychological wellbeing, recalled trauma history, attachment style and reflective capacity variables. Parental reflective capacity had the strongest association with parenting stress, satisfaction, efficacy, the perception of having a difficult child and a difficult parent-child relationship, and psychological wellbeing had the greatest association with parenting distress. Conclusions: Parents who were able to imaginatively enter the subjective world of the child and hold the child's mind in mind with less certainty, reported reduced parenting stress and greater parenting satisfaction and efficacy. Helping to improve personality and mental health functioning, increasing parental reflective capacity and strengthening parent-child attachment relationships, may reduce parenting stress and increase parenting competence in individuals with BPD.



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